Tapping the Mind

Been slow going today. After finishing testing of the encounter implementation, I started looking at what to work on next. There's still a lot to choose from, including mid-plot encounters, random encounters, implementing the finale, and coming up with appropriate encounters for within the DMC walls.

At first, I thought I'd take a break from larger encounters and try to knock-off a few short, random ones. I have a few ideas in mind, but as I looked into them more, I was having a hard time getting inspired. The future state of the combat system doesn't help things either.

As a change of pace, I switched over to DMC brainstorming. This was a lot more enticing, giving me an excuse to dig out Bladerunner soundtrack and other inspirational background noise. I managed to get a few interesting ideas onto paper, but still have a few creative roadblocks to overcome.

One thing I'm struggling with is providing the right balance of freedom and limitation in the DMC. The city is a huge place, and it seems like players should be able to do an almost limitless number of things there. On the other hand, my timeline and budget are not limitless, so I can only provide so much. What's more, this is a game about survival in the post apocalyptic wilderness. Many of the game mechanics sort of fall apart in an urban setting.

This is where a lot of my afternoon was spent. Trying to come up with reasonable ways to limit what the player does, but also interesting things to do within those limits. I have a few things in mind, but before I start on them, I want to give them a night or two to percolate. Usually ideas are better in subsequent revisions, so no sense jumping the gun.

Bug Fixes

Fortunately, the early part of the day was more productive. There were a few outstanding bugs in the encounter system that I discovered over the past couple days, so I could spend more time working and less time questioning.

I managed to fix a couple bugs that were causing items to be miscounted when they were inside a container and used as an encounter response. The new code is much more robust here, allowing me to accept filled containers (e.g. lighters with fluid, bottles with liquid, or medkits with charges) as player choices during encounters.

I also fixed a small bug in the item animations that caused them to appear when loading a saved game, or landing on a hex with items that also triggers an encounter. Nothing critical, of course, but fixing it probably reduces confusion in some cases.

New Encounter

Finally, I'll share a screenshot of the latest encounter rigged up in the editor.

IMAGE(http://www.bluebottlegames.com/img/screenshots/screenshot-2012-06-01.png) Encounter design with probabilities.

This is the encounter I mentioned that has probabilities controlling some branches. When the player chooses a response, the system can choose from one of several outcomes, each with different probabilities.

One cool aspect of this system is that a player choice doesn't have to branch immediately. A choice several nodes back in the chain can have an effect. Cameron and I are still learning how to take advantage of this, but I think we'll likely use it more over time. Hopefully, this type of randomized outcome keeps these encounters fresh longer. Each playthrough should feel a bit different, even if the same character build is used. Or so the theory goes :)

With that, I think it's time for pizza and beer. It's a Friday tradition!

Have a good weekend all!


yuanchueh's picture

Just a thought, but it might be interesting to turn inside the city into a text based adventure ala Space Rangers 2. This would require a lot of writing, but if done correctly could make the city very engaging in its own way.

dcfedor's picture

I was actually thinking along those lines. Perhaps making the city an extended encounter, where player choices not only control how the player responds to things, but also where they go.

The logical alternative seems like it would involve the player moving around the city hexes within the walls, and triggering encounters that way. Doing it that way would likely mean just as much writing and encounter art, plus more hex art.

So for now, I think what you're suggesting is probably the right approach. I'll have to see if it's possible to map it out in the editor. Could be pretty complicated!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Tibe19K's picture

Are there any military bases/camps/or old armories in which the player can loot? Been hunting around through the hexes, avoiding the city really. I'm enjoying finding all the places. Carrying around two back packs to have my scrounged goods in and things, honestly wasn't expecting to find a full size and running city an what not. Number one priority for me if anything were to go down hill would be heading to any of the military bases (if things really went down hill and the army was kapoot as well as the national guard) that I know of from my time in the army to scrounge what I could there. A vehicle, or etc. (For me a tank, since that is what I was a crew member of) With the main character being from a cryo chamber, why not have a scattered batch of military bases in which have monsters in them? Dogmen, or catmen, or some sort of genetically created super-soldier attempt? Or just the cloning for food things that are tidbitted in the old newspapers haven gone wrong. The character finding an old small village that is being constantly attacked by a monster in the night taking their young and it turns out to be one of the monsters? You are hired to kill it? Or police stations to loot?

I am enjoying the game going about scrounging in places but sticking away from the city for the time being. I feel like there can be hundreds of untapped things that can be done out in the wilderness. Stumbling into bears, fighting the bears. Wolves. Trading with people you may come across.

dcfedor's picture

I'd like for there to be some military hardware out there in the wilderness. Maybe a downed craft or armory/cache in which to find a few military grade pieces. I'd expect most known military installations to be emptied or raided by the time the player wakes up, though. I.e. most of the good stuff is either transferred to active locations, or in the hands of early-bird scavengers.

I'd even like for there to be some really high-tech equipment in the world, though I'm not sure how available I want it to be. The DMC is there partially to hint at some of the levels of technology in the world, such as hoverbikes and arcologies. Other high tech stuff may exist, but would have to be plausible (e.g. not force fields). I'm not against things like powered armor/exoskeletons, man-portable energy weapons (like in Akira), and the remnants of commercial space travel (like in Aliens).

All would be fairly rare for the NEO Scavenger player, though. There may be other games in the future which involve that tech more readily, but that's a long way off.

Ideally, I'd be able to create a few dozen random wilderness encounters, and a handful of static location encounters. That way, exploring the wilderness (90% of the map) yields different rewards and perils each playthrough, combined with a few dependable locales.

It'll depend on how fast content creation goes, in the end. Encounters are pretty slow to create, and get consumed quickly by players, so they're not as efficient as new game mechanics. Still, they're the best way to paint the picture of the world, and provide meaningful role-playing experiences.

Bottom line: you're right. The game is about scrounging and surviving in the post apocalyptic wilderness, and most of the content should reflect that.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Tibe19K's picture

True enough with large bases and depots but there are small 'camps' scattered throughout America that one wouldn't even know were military installations that have weapons and ammo to be distributed to the populace of small towns incase the continent were ever to be invaded. I had the job on occasions to go around to these places and cycle out the obsolete weapons (IE WW2 weapons for the just retired Vietnam era weapons that had officially been dropped from the NG units in mid 2006) and replace the MRE stores with fresher packaged ones.

I'm not interested in finding automatic weapons, battle tanks, humvees, and things of that nature. An old rickity blazer they use to run in the 80s would be alright, a beat up diesel truck that would be past up by those wanting to grab up the good things at the start and then directly after the collapse. But military boots, a few scattering of clothes, some food stuffs such as MREs or canned rations,and various little things of that nature to find. Just small items left over after the first initial clean outs that others wouldn't have thought important. MRE crackers, or side dishes or desserts that everybody always dumped and never seemed to eat just taking the entrees.

I don't ever want to have my character so 'well off' that the game gets boring haha. A lot of games out there that I play I get tired with rather quickly because the challenge ends very quickly when suddenly I am stocked full of ammo or have some insane gun or limited supplies all together but a vehicle with ample fuel. I enjoy the fact I gotta go around swapping out crowbars for less damaged crowbars for even though I got a rifle I got limited bullets leaving the crowbar my number one weapon so far. Some old military clothes to add to hiding by using the camo pattern would be good compared to just always finding bluejeans. I think the hover bikes would be interesting in a sort of way but that'd kill the fun of trooping around on the hexes. The portable Akira laser would be entertaining if there were more things to fight. Mutants, or a pack of raiders, or such that would require something like that.

But if I were to find a downed C-140 that had a few odds and ends within it (even if it were stripping the items from the pilot's corpse) I'd be a rather happy camper. But small doctor offices or animal vet hospitals for small supplies of first aid or a few turned over army trucks or sealed up SWAT vehicles with lootable items would be great.