The Day After Dev Report #6

Another quiet two weeks for dev work, yet non-quiet for life in general. I went to the inaugural PAX Australia, which was good fun. When I wasn’t at PAX, I was mostly sick. Which is why this report is two days late… Sorry!

But fear not, I have things to talk about! PAX was a good time to talk to game devs, look critically at what they were doing, and think critically about what I’m doing. I talked to a few friends about my immediate plans with the game. Basically I should be really close to getting GUI elements on a screen and doing basic stuff. Like, do the main menu with temporary fonts and graphics.

My input system works (I click buttons and press keys and things work). Currently my engine is in a slightly fragile state due to the code changes in Dev Report #4. Not in a particularly bad way, it’s just my unit tests are based on an older hack. In that I’d create required submodules manually rather than go top-down (the GameApp would just select a smaller group of modules) or bottom-up (get the tested modules to set up their prerequisites). Deciding between the two isn’t a huge change to the code, it just needs to be done. If I have the mental energy, I’ll attempt this tonight.

I spent a bit of time at PAX with The Artist (aka Alice Carroll) and we briefly chatted about where I was going with the game. She’s pretty busy and the game’s not in a state for me to commission more art. I’m working on getting the story part of the game working. The gameplay loop is at a macro level: you go from point A to point B, which requires a bunch of scenes in between. Each scene is a situation where you choose your reaction or strategy. It’s done like those anime games where static character art slides in from the side, says some dialogue, you press a button, rinse, repeat. I want the game to have a graphic novel feel, and this would be step one of the process. Kinda lame, but it’s a start. It’s words on a page, as the writing fraternity say.

Step two would be giving the characters more emotional options (facial expressions, gestures etc). One way to do this is commission Alice for a billionty pictures. She is awesome, but she is busy. And my wallet only is so much. The other alternative is to get 3d models of the character concepts, and pose them for scenes (either statically and create a library of pictures, or dynamically in scene). I don’t know where to find a 3d modeller person or how much that’d cost me. I could potentially do it myself, but while I’m a fast learner, I’m not much of a modeller. Doing it myself is the cheapest and most controlled option, but also the one with the largest cognitive load and work load, and potential for substandard results. In the end I checked out the AIE and other campus booths at PAX and done some Internet research, but Google is surprisingly crap at finding 3d modellers locally. If anyone knows a good character modeller, I’d like to meet them.

I think getting models will be my eventual route. Once I get them, I’m okay at posing rigged characters (see my Movember Posters for examples). But for now, lean and simple use of the character concept art.

Eventually the 3d models will let me do combat scenes. I’m figuring they’ll end up being like XCom or the new Shadowrun game. Simple, turn-based tactics. But I’d like the feel to be more scrappy and fight-for-your-life rather than military sweeping rooms and vantage points. Dunno how that translates, but whatever.

As a prelude to that, on the flight back from PAX I designed about 90% of a board game. It’s tactical and simple. I wanted to prototype it either in Lego or plastic sheets printed from Officeworks. The former option is a little expensive. The latter option is a bit of a hassle. The world really needs a better Campaign Cartographer. CC does good work eventually, but I figure it could be quite a lot better in terms of usability and interface. The knife-to-the-ribs for me was mirroring an object required half a dozen clicks and typing the word “MIRROR”. Not good. If I had sufficient parallel me’s, I’d get right on that. In any case, if I can prototype the board and the cards really quickly and cheaply, I could test it ASAP.

So I’m dead-keen on getting something to show you guys. Even just the world’s worst UI. In the meantime, check out this other concept art Alice made for me.

The Day After – The Doctor and The Scientist by ~CognitiveDiscodance on deviantART

The Short And Sweet

I recently:

  • Did some bugfixing with FileIOManager
  • Tested input
  • Talked to devs and looked at very many things at PAX. Thought yet again about Unity and then played a lot of Unity games with terrible performance doing not much at all.
  • Was sick and busy.

I’m planning to:

  • Get the engine slightly more stable (minor work).
  • Get the GUI stuff up and running now that my schedule is a bit more free.