Override Finished, Fixing Load Order, and Final Encounter

Picking up where I left off on Friday, I finished making the override edits to the remaining data types in the parser. And for a moment, things seemed to be working...

However, as soon as I added a mod data for the override, things went south. By the looks of it, the base data loaded okay, then the test mod I created. But the transition from finishing the test mod loading and starting the override data was broken. Namely, it was skipping loading steps where it shouldn't.

I took a few steps back to see what was happening, and it looks like I was making some assumptions in my design that don't work beyond the first loaded mod. As a result, I have to make some changes to the way the game handles loading order.

E.g.

  • load a list of images
  • store each image from that list
  • load charge profiles
  • ...
  • finish loading mod
  • start loading new mod
  • load mods list of images
  • etc.

I think I've got the guts of the new load order stuff done, but there's still a nagging issue or three. Tomorrow, I'll be looking into that, and hopefully we'll have a running game again.

Apart from the load order stuff above, I also provided some feedback to Harald on his outline of the latest encounter. It's looking good so far, and this is shaping up to be NEO Scavenger's finale. There may be some other side quests or optional encounters added to the game (time permitting), such as more DMC stuff, or dealing with Hatter/Stoat. However, the critical path will likely be two more major locations, with this latest one as the last.

I'm hoping that the game can be structured in a way that this encounter happens when the player wants it to, so they can prolong the mid-game as long as desired before locking in the final encounter. I'm also hoping we can structure the encounters in a way that rewards multiple playthroughs (e.g. mutually exclusive paths). Finally, this finale is likely to be extremely challenging, and I hope to make it more rewarding to players who prepare more for it.

One thing at a time, though. Gotta fix this loader, and then we'll see where Harald's talents take us!

Oh, and for those Stateside (or anywhere, really), take a moment this Memorial day to honor those that gave up their lives in service to us. However you spent your day today, it was likely possible through the sacrifices of others. And for that, they have our gratitude.

Comments

TheClassiness's picture
TheClassiness

The final encounter already? This seems quite sudden, I thought the story only began. Most of the lore is behind the Wraith, which we only know of from little secret bits, and the tribe saying that we studied things like it. I was hoping the story was going to be longer, although I haven't seen the finale yet..

Scavenger's picture
Scavenger

If I understand correctly, the whole main plotline is in the works and not yet released, the work simply reached point where final encounter is also being done - so when we'll get release with the main story, you'll actually receive more than one encounter.

I still would like voice my earlier concern regarding sizeable exclusivity, if only in reminder - I would prefer if plotlines wouldn't be completely exclusive, only few bits of info and decisions be, possibly alternating the outcomes. Line between rewarding replaying the game and limiting the content so the player is forced to replay it differently to experience it is thin. Wouldn't it be better if, for example, the two plotlines, one with points A->B->C, other with 1->2->3 allow mixing so player can go, for example A->1->B->C->3? It would permit a bit more fluid and 'natural' gameplay, rather than choosing certain path and having to stick with it. Potential missed conent would be a matter of changing this or that choice, not having to play completely different plotline, especially if player didn't find it as interesting as the earlier one.

Even ending wouldn't be too hard with something along those lines - changing a few sentences in descriptions/events or adding a screen or two with new ones depending on which flags in which situations player activated and what choices did he decide on (a practice which worked out quite well in the past if I recall correctly, in titles such as Fallout:NV or Stalker:CoP).

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

@TheClassiness, that's one of my bigger fears, to be honest. I don't want people to feel like the game is too skimpy. Like I've let them down. I want people to feel satisfied with their purchase, and that they got a game that gave them hours of fun for their money.

My current plan is to have two more major story encounters added. By major, I mean comparable to ATN, Zom Zom's, or Concrete Forest Apartments. If someone bee-lined from story encounter to story encounter, ignoring side "quests" and exploration, I think they could probably complete the story in this game within a few hours.

Missing side quests might make the final encounter near impossible, though, so a speed run may be risky. Rushing is also a risk in itself, with scarce food, hostiles, etc.

Taking one's time to explore a bit more will prepare players for the finale, but then, it might add a few more hours of play. At that point, we're talking at least 6-8 hours of dedicated playtime to experience the full story path in the game.

6-8 hours is a number I'm comfortable with, and which I think is comparable to other games in the $10 range. It's more story content than FTL, for example, and probably on par with Defender's Quest. It's less than Shadowrun Returns, of course, but that retailed at $20 when it launched. It was also a bit more "long and narrow" in story, while NEO Scavenger is shorter and broader. NEO Scavenger allows more player-directed paths, sandbox play, and other choices.

Of course, using other games to compare against, one could probably make the opposite argument, too. That's one thing we discovered at BioWare: there's a game out there for every argument.

In any case, my hope is that, by the end of NEO Scavenger, I'll have provided a nice balance of story and sandbox which lasts at least 6-8 hours. According to current Steam stats, the average time played is 10h40m, which doesn't include the upcoming encounters. So I think we might be in the right ballpark. I'm also thinking this number will increase further as more mods are developed, now that modding is a possibility.

Furthermore, by "finale," I don't necessarily mean Philip Kindred's story will be over. Far from it. NEO Scavenger is a world I want to explore with more games. And Philip's story is planned to continue for at least one more game. NEO Scavenger "1", therefore, is more of a story of how Philip woke up in Michigan and started solving his own mystery. Future games (which will hopefully be made possible by sales of this game) will continue Philip's story as he leaves Michigan in search of more answers.

@Scavenger, I think the exclusive branches I mention above are less drastic than the Stoat/Bob/Lady game design experiment, if that's what you're getting at. These paths are more based on player choice than random chance. The player's choice in skills, previous encounters, and items to bring along will determine which paths are open later in the game. E.g. if the player doesn't choose hacking, the hacking option won't be there. If they don't have this tool, they won't be able to use it to unlock this device, etc.

And in your example of A->B->C vs. 1->2->3, I think this will still be the case in the end. Let's say C is the finale. Doing something during C will signal the end of the game, with a "to be continued" vibe. A and B may not be necessary to reach C, but they may open certain doors in C, or reveal other backstory info.

Also, 1, 2, and 3 are in some ways optional to C. And like A and B, may provide keys to some things in C, or access to more backstory.

In the end, I want the player to feel like Deckard in Blade Runner, John Murdoch in Dark City, or JJ in Chinatown: they had a range of leads to follow, but nobody to tell them which is most valuable or next. They have to piece things together in any order they want, and doing some may invalidate others.

In the end, all will be able to reach C (i.e. the finale). The difference will be which doors are open when they get there.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games