After losing my glasses in a lake, I had to start writing text in a google doc with font size 16. This means that there is now a huge gap in my workflow. I have to first set up the logical structure of a sequence, then switch to the doc to write and then copy-paste the text into the visual scripting blocks of my homebrew framework. This has been great for the linear parts of the game, where the quality of text is more important than the quality of interaction.
Since I am trying to work from back to front, I have tested this new writing process on the X endings of the game and am very happy with the results. The problem with setting up structure first and copy-pasting text in later is that the meat of PRODUCER, the handcrafted and highly interactive sequences, are much harder to create. Instead, I tried to find some other types of interactions that rely more on fixed structures and patterns. The one that works for now is heavily based on randomness and can not be used for the whole game, but I will keep investigating this in the coming week.
Because of my glasslessness, I spent most of my time on making art. Here, my inability to see tiny details has sped up production significantly. I can no longer hunt for stupid pixels and obsess over slight color gradings, simply because I can’t see shit. This faster speed, combined with a series of happy accidents, has lead to significant process in the art department.
The mockup clouds I used to test the sunset-system turned out to be extremely pretty, allowing me to immediatly test the horizon-system on the main hub area of the game. I adjusted the hub background slightly to make it all work and in that process accidentally created a perfect stage for a secret sequence that can happen at the end of the game. You have to do a lot of extra work to see this dialogue, so I wanted to make it’s NPC especially visually interesting, to reward the people that put up with my stupid puzzles. Depicting NPCs has been a constant headache since the beginning of PRODUCER. I have went through a lot of different solutions but now, accidentally, I found the perfect one while playing around with the art of this secret NPC:
Each NPC consists of a collection of individual bodyparts, where each bodypart is transformed, turned or stretched by construct’s sine behaviour. Additionally, each bodypart’s position can can be either
pinned to another bodypart, or
stretching itself towards another bodypart.
This system allows me to quickly take my previously flat, unmoving NPCs, cut them up and stitch them back together again without writing a single line of code. The result is a kind of fucked up idle animation, that seems to breathe and move in unpredicatble ways. Showing this to friends and colleagues produced very positive results and allowed me to already lock some NPCs in for good.
Additionally, I have started applying this sine-animation technique to the environments as well, making the whole game feel a lot more expensive and alive with just a few clicks. But no matter how fast, this will always be slower than my previous methods and that’s okay. The last structural revision has reduced the scope of the game drastically while increasing its density and interconnectivity, so the additional animation cost of the sine-puppets is not as high across the whole project as it could have been.
Seeing the increased quality on the finished NPCs and environments also really energises me. They look so cool that I can’t imagine changing anything about them, which makes the rest of the game congeal around them, becoming more concrete and approachable as a whole.
I have also reworked and tweaked the User Interface, effectively removing all rounded corners, to create a stark, angular UI that now stands in great contrast to the more organic, moving artwork.
The concept-system has been reworked to allow for gradual gaining of knowledge instead of the old binary on/off knowledge. The UI is a bit clunky, but it allows me to, once more, have less individual pieces of content, but instead connect them to each other more densely.
The exp-system has received a drastic rework as well. You can no longer loose EXP for looking at the same content twice, instead the returns of looking at content again and again simply diminish over time. Every time you see a block of text again, you will gain 1 EXP less than before, creating a dynamic not unlike traditional videogame farming, where you can kill the same enemy over and over again, but will (effectively) receive less and less of a reward each time.
That’s it for this week! Next week will see me try out new narrative structures that lend themselves to copy pasting and doing some more art & animation.