I had a pretty solid day of DMC map detail work today. I finished up the block layouts, and most of the general lighting of the streets. There's some overall noise and procedurals used to give the scene texture, but by far, the interesting stuff is what was painted deliberately. Rooftop skylights, bright specs of light on tall buildings, and rows of street lamps really make a difference.
Every now and then, I have to remind myself that there's no substitute for elbow grease. When it comes to creative work, like painting, 3d modeling, and writing, I have a tendency to forget that there's no magic brush nor tool that will create something that looks good with little effort. I always fall into the trap of thinking that some procedural technique will do most of the work for me, and then I can just tweak it to look good.
Though I was in town all day yesterday, I still managed to get a decent amount of plot scribbling done using good, old fashioned pen and paper. I focused on some possible background info for the player, possible clues they could find, and how things all tie together. I think I answered some questions, but also created some.
However, it definitely helped to get some ideas down on paper, even if some ideas were discarded, as putting the ideas in ink seemed to clear the way for new, improved ideas.
This morning was a bit slow, as I knew I wanted to try some DMC mapping ideas, but I wasn't really sure where to start. I know the player is entering the DMC via a gate in the west, but I wasn't exactly sure about the boundaries of the city. So after some research and map-gazing, I ended up deciding on some demarkation lines for the city, and picked a spot for the gate the player uses: Gate 11.
After finishing up the encounter mentioned yesterday, I decided to look into some DMC-related encounters. And one of the things I need to decide is how to represent the city to the player once the player passes the main gate.
The way the city is now, there are some wall hexes, the sprawl, and a repeated interior skyscraper hex. So if the player could walk around the city on the map, it'd be kind of boring. I could draw some new interior hexes, but those take quite a bit of time to make (lots of detail), and that would be time taken away from plot and feature development.
Today started off a bit slow, but I managed to strike a rhythm by about midday.
Some of the work involved some old encounters. Namely, there were some encounters that resulted in player death using random chance. As mentioned in a few places (including forum discussions), death via encounters isn't really fair, nor fun, if it happens randomly. Player choice should be the only cause of death in an encounter. And even then, it should be a choice that's clearly a risk.
I had a pretty productive day today. Early on, I decided to review an old background document on the NEO Scavenger world, and it really helped kick off a series of revisions which incorporated my last few days of plot contemplation. There were some old assumptions that I was able to clear up and/or remove, and some blank areas I could now fill in with more satisfying explanations. Plus, I was able to further flesh-out some of the major agents/factions Cameron and I created for the Michigan theater.
I took a step back today from specific encounter implementation, and looked at the overall story elements. I think a lot has changed since I started NEO Scavenger, so it was good to get a fresh perspective on the big picture.
Most of the day today was spent implementing a new encounter. It took a few running starts to get an overall encounter structure that I could manage.
The revising effort was mostly aimed at avoiding the spiderweb-like structure of the cryo facility encounter. In the cryo encounter, every node can go to every node directly. It saves a click for the user between each option, but it's almost impossible to design without making mistakes. Lots of connections are missed or misdirected, so the overall user experience is worse.
Pete Mascio recently interviewed me over Skype, and we talked about a range of things, including NEO Scavenger, my career at BioWare, and the experience of becoming an independent developer. He's posted a recording of it on his website, Indie Games as an Art Form.
I was able to get the editor running completely this afternoon. Copy/paste turned out to be a persistent problem, and rather than investing another day or two into it (and possibly modifying the Haxe/NME libraries as well), I decided to back up a step or two and try compiling it as a Flash target.
I finished working on the data saving feature today, and had my first few successful test runs with the data! There were a few bugs that needed sorting out (e.g. fields not saving correctly), but by the time early afternoon rolled around, I was able to add new nodes, edit nodes, and save them successfully.
Work still continues on the encounter editor. At the end of last week, I was able to get the node map displaying, along with pan and zoom controls.
Resuming work today started out frustratingly slow, but I made a lot of progress towards the end of the day. Early on, I was having some issues getting the user input to register correctly (important for editing text in the encounters, among other things). However, it turns out the version of Haxe NME that I was using was slightly out of date.
After reading about a few stubborn item bugs today, I decided to put the editor overhaul on the back burner for a day or so. I feel weird working on new stuff when the old stuff doesn't work correctly :)
Item Degrading Bug
The first bug had to do with items degrading. The most common case was clean rags degrading into dirty rags. It turns out last week's fixes didn't cover the case when a stacked item degraded, especially if the degrading item was deep inside a stack, instead of on the top.
Since more plot recently received a healthy surge of votes, outpacing all other features, I decided I'd spend a bit more time working on encounters. However, before I can do that, I'll need to fix-up the encounter editor I cobbled together.
Yep! Another new build! I've just uploaded beta 0.957b and demo 0.957d. There were still a few annoying item-related bugs left from the stacking overhaul, and this build aims to fix them. The changes include: