I finished implementing Cameron's encounter today, and began testing it. It involved a couple new items, both encounter-specific ones (like the window and console in the cryo facility) and inventory items. Therefore, some new art was required, and new data entries.
It also required a new condition. This condition is more complex than cholera, so it'll require some additional testing. It was tempting to start going down the path of more feature development, in terms of wound and wound treatment. I had to slap my wrist and get back to the plot work at hand, though.
I finished testing and bug fixing the encounter I've been working on, and started implementing a new one. This next one is Cameron's first, and uses some interesting probability distributions in the outcome. Should be interesting to see how it works out in practice.
I also managed to finish the artwork for his encounter. This one was one of the fastest yet, particularly given the subject matter. It only took me a couple of hours. Similar pieces have taken closer to a day in the past, so this may be a sign that my painting is improving!
I started testing the encounter I finished adding yesterday. I've already done some bug fixing for flow issues and text. Upon finishing one possible branch, it became apparent that the item rewards might get lost or ignored. So I started looking into ways to make items more obvious when given as a reward.
One feature I'm currently adding to solve this is to add item movement in take/drop mode. Whenever an item is transferred to a new place, I now make it smoothly fly over to its destination. Previously, it would instantly appear at the destination.
I finished implementing the encounter I showed in Friday's news. There was a minor hang-up when I realized one section where the player can trade one of several items required separate outcome nodes for each traded item, to ensure the right item was subtracted from the player. That was annoying, but not worth writing a new system for yet, so I just had to suck it up and deal with the tedious task. The rest of the encounter work went smoothly, though.
Back to plot work today. More revisions to encounters we've been working on, and I started wiring up one of the plot encounters in the editor. It's a pretty long and winding series of choices, and I had to make some tweaks to the editor to support overlapping outcomes.
In some cases, multiple user choices result in the same outcome (e.g. using the various optics in the game to recon an area), so I had to make it easier to edit such cases.
So I lied. I said I wouldn't work on Victoria Day, but I did. I snuck a few features in, and that means new beta build 0.939b!
Boredom Relief Package
It's been a long time since a new build went up, and folks are probably getting pretty tired of hearing about mysterious plot updates. One day, while Cameron and I were discussing his forest-dwelling ways, he described some interesting ideas for chase and pursuit: ways in which the player might deal with being followed.
I think I've finished the bulk of the encounter today. At over 4200 words, this one's a monster. We'll have to see how it fits with the game system, as I haven't tested it against the encounter screens for length yet. It might need some slicing and dicing to fit.
Still, I'm hoping this one will be a fun one to try a few times. There are a couple different approaches, and they yield different outcomes, so I'm hoping the effort will be worth it.
Well, another day down, and still not done with this encounter. It's almost at 2800 words now, so I guess I'm getting close. The good news is that I managed to work out a couple of logical gaps that were bothering me, and found a new personality I like for the character involved. I realized I was starting to retread the cool/aloof Hatter style character, and that'd be no fun. So I turned him around and made him a bit more batty, and I'm really liking the change. It actually inspired me to write more.
Writing on encounters continues. I broke the 2000 word mark today on the one I'm writing, and I'm estimating I've still got another 500-1000 to go. Writing in a production environment is a new thing for me, so I'm unsure where this rate of progress fits on the scale of professional writing. I know it's slower than I expected, as I figured I'd be done with this one today. However, coming up with language that appeals can be slow, and ironing out logical continuity is always a time sink.
I made some slight changes to the encounter system today. As mentioned yesterday, it was becoming necessary to allow encounters to branch based on probability. Instead of one input yielding one output, some encounters were better served if one input could yield one of many outputs, each with their own probability.
Cameron and I have exchanged notes on another two encounters, and those are shaping up nicely. The way they are looking, it might be time for me to start thinking about encounters that allow chances at outcomes, rather than deterministic outcomes. (E.g. using item X results in outcome Y 50% of the time, and Z the other 50%). This doesn't seem like it'll be hard to add, so I may look into that tomorrow. We'll also have to see if it makes the encounter confusing at all. In theory, I don't think it will, but it's always possible it feels weird once in practice.
Today was more of an art day, which is always a nice change of pace. I spent most of the afternoon working on an encounter screen for a new early-plot location. It's coming along, and I think it's nearly done. Yesterday was spent getting some block colors in place, and general layout, perspective, etc. Today, I filled in a lot of the details and subject matter, within the framework.
While doing some finale revision today, some questions arose about how to handle "winning" vs. "losing" the game. Specifically, in the final game encounter, should every player be allowed to "win?" Regardless of the skills the player chose, and the items they carry, should there be some way to deal with the final encounter?
Today was a productive mix of plot work and code changes. On the plot side, I finished implementing the side quest I've been working on, and began testing the various paths through it. It's a bit of a departure from the cryo-style encounter, in that this one has a few player-driven options that produce vastly different results based on timing, rather than many choices of tools/skills to use in a short time. I might have to add more tool/skill options if it feels too weak, but for now, there's variety in choosing different paths sooner rather than later.
I want to take a moment to give a shout-out to someone who deserves some praise. For the last little while, I've had the pleasure of collaborating with a talented gentleman named Cameron Harris. His input so far has been extremely helpful in improving both game design and plot elements, and I think NEO Scavenger will be better for it. His insight into software systems ensures the ideas fit well with the engine, and his creativity should add depth to future builds. Thanks Cameron!
Today was spent entirely on plot finale writing, and I'm feeling pretty good about this draft. There were a few things which felt a bit out of place, and they're starting to feel more plausible and satisfying now. It's even got some ways to use under-represented skills, so I'm pretty excited about that as well.
Once that final scenario is mapped-out, events which lead up to it should be easier to write. They'll have a clearer endpoint to work towards, and hopefully, they too can target skills for better character-build coverage.
Work continues on plot encounter design and drafting. It's still pretty slow-going, as a lot of overall plot details need working out before things start getting hooked up. I think it's starting to take shape, though. Hopefully, as things solidify, the implementation will go a bit faster.
More "mysterious" plot work today. Writer's block got to me pretty early on. When it strikes, I just can't seem to think of or settle on encounter ideas and flow that I like.
Fortunately, I've found one way to help overcome the block: write some crappy text. It sounds silly, but it seems to work. I just start putting down whatever comes to mind, ignoring how stupid it sounds, and soon, better ideas start coming to mind. Before long, I can start replacing the dummy text with newer, better options, and really start to get motivated again.