The Day After Dev Report #5

Wow, it’s another fortnight already? I’ve been doing more engine work, research and non-game stuff, but it doesn’t feel like two weeks!

First the excuses: I’ve had good friends visit from overseas, I’ve helped gut a shed, prepared for PAX and tried to be social. And to be honest, a huge chunk of time was gobbled up by the three-headed Cerberus that is Card Hunter, UnEpic and Rogue Legacy. I’d recommend these games if you need something to eat your gaming time whole.

Quick reviews for those who’ll ask: Card Hunter is the love-child of deck-building strategy and old school D&D, without the complications or icky parts of either. UnEpic is a Castlevania-style game from some Spanish that is quite fun if you can tolerate the immature (and sometimes offensive) writing. Rogue Legacy is a different take on Castlevania-style gameplay, based around a vague legacy of heroes via upgrades and quick “just one more guy” gameplay.

I also went out to catch World War Z at the cinemas, partly because I wanted to see it, and partly for notes for The Day After.

It’s an okay film and kick-started a few ideas, but nothing super-relevant for The Day After. I loved the special effects, but man, fast zombies are lame. Simon Pegg agrees with me. The World War Z zombies are kinda infected, but kinda dead. It doesn’t prevent them from having perfect acrobatic control over their bodies as they race around at high-speed. It gives them this animalistic ferocity which is more like werewolves than zombies.

Although I flinch when people ask “how’s your zombie game coming along?”, The Day After is a zombie game. I don’t call them zombies, I call them Psychopaths, for various reasons, but underneath I’m paying more respect to the zombie genre than all the fast zombie movies do. Zombies encapsulate the fears we have under the zeitgeist of the time. Older zombies captured the fear of the unknown, of alien tribal cultures and mysticism. Later it became the threat of nuclear war and nuclear power. Later still, chemical and biological war. Or outer space. In Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, zombies represented the fear of being trapped in a repetitive, soulless, commercial middle-class existence.

My “zombies” represent the Internet age and the modern obsession with the mind. We know so little about it, but people absolutely vomit their thoughts onto the Internet with absolute aggression. The terrifying thing about the Internet is that although it is a bit of a wild west, a thin veneer of civilization and technology keeps it together. Imagine if that barrier were gone. And in your face. Not only this, but we worry about people who actively pervert thoughts (climate change deniers, Tea Party, Fox News). It seems insane that people would exist like this. Our villains for this game is that insanity. Of unbridled aggression and outpouring of our deepest, darkest secrets, all the while thwarted by people who have chosen a lie.

For these reasons (and more) my “zombies” are “Psychopaths”. They aren’t the undead, but they are infected – for want of a better word. They are violent and sad people. They don’t have superhuman abilities and they aren’t exactly mindless. I have a raft of pseudo-scientific details behind why they are aggressive and what that means for gameplay and plotting. But I won’t spoil that just yet.

But yeah, nuts to fast zombies.

In programming news, I’ve been doing more engine work. Paradoxically I’ve done more than I expected and less than I thought. I whipped through a bunch of the components and did surgery on them, based on some of the things I mentioned last time. I’ve fixed the way a bunch of the components interact and accidentally made things make much more sense. I want to solidify this and get my unit tests in line with all that. Then I want to get the GUI stuff working quickly. I’m sick of it sitting around not doing anything. I’m also sick of working on the engine with nothing really to show for it. I want to work more on the gameplay side of the game.

The Short and Sweet

Recently completed tasks:

  • Did some research by way of World War Z and general Internet stuff.
  • Fixed the Manager sub-interface across the engine.
  • Added a skeletal FileIOManager to simplify certain directory lookups and checks. Thought about it being a disk-streaming service to get files into memory quicker than naive reads.
  • Some basic scene writing/editing, and character design work.

I’m working on:

  • Getting the engine into a basic state (almost there!)
  • Rewriting unit tests
  • Writing the GameState components for something to hang my initial GUI work on.
  • Writing code for Scenes