The Day After Dev Report #16 – A Different Sibling

Another invisible update – I’ve moved away from the GUI/engine work and am working on the game itself. I’m sizing up my attack whilst trying to sort a few other things out.

After much saving, I’ve finally gotten myself a new computer. My old computer has been moved out to the lounge room to become a Steam box some day. It’ll also do fuzz testing on The Day After when I get that set up.

My new machine is freakin’ sweet. Lots of SSDs and heaps of everything else. Quiet too! Win 8.1 is astounding in some ways, but annoying in others. While I like the concept of the panels on the start screen, it doesn’t work how I work, so I only use it for novelty. Boot time is ridiculously small. I’m getting about 250fps in TF2, so that’s all that matters 😉

My code for The Day After works on my new machine (and operating system) with compatibility mode engaged. The last few days have involved transferring all my data across, putting it in the right place and then finding I’ve forgotten something and repeat. I haven’t tried a full compile yet, but we’ll see how we go. I might be able to simplify the towering house of cards that was my dev environment before.

Also I’ve finally set up another blog so I can talk about technical topics from time to time. The CSS was written by yours truly, so let me know if it’s any good or broken on your browser. I might transfer a similar theme here. This blog will primarily be about creative things: my projects, writing and games. The tech blog one has the geek factor dialled up, so it’ll talk about programming and maths. I figure these two audiences don’t have a huge overlap, and the overlap know how to watch two blogs at once. I’ll still talk about programming in my dev reports, but it’ll remain very casual and broad-brushstrokes.

Playing TDA in my mind

In the meantime I’ve been thinking about the game loop again and how I imagine actually playing The Day After. I keep oscillating between thinking I’m doing something a little new and weird, and finding direct correlates. I have a bit of a theory about it. Let me explain.

The short synopsis of The Day After is that you’re one of a bunch of Survivors in a weird disaster. You have to traverse the city to clear objectives (for example, bringing back the power). Once you’ve done that, you can be rescued.

In a general sense, the game is about playing out scenes in a general narrative. It’s discontinuous and abstracted a little. For example, it won’t be like Zelda where you walk Link across the landscape. This lets you focus on the story and events. It’s a little more like the recent Telltale’s Walking Dead series, although that has a fixed narrative.

I’ve figured out the closest relatives to The Day After. If you’ve played FTL or Organ Trail (or the great-granddaddy of both of these: Oregan Trail), then you might have an idea. The game progresses in rounds. Every round is a new scene, which might be a single line in Organ Trail, or a specific battle setup for FTL (like the damn exploding suns). Some times it’s a battle. Other times you have to make a choice against random odds. Occasionally there are pit-stops like the cities in Organ Trail, or zone jumps or merchants in FTL. The ending is usually a very special battle. All the while you’re trying to make judgment calls on resources when you’re facing what is random fate.

The Day After will be similar to this and at the same time very different. Organ Trail and FTL both focus on resource management above everything else, and story is very minimal to the point of almost being non sequiturs. I want to flip this. I want a similar style of gameplay, but with emphasis on story and characters rather than resource management. I want your team of survivors to be more like main characters than red-shirts. The fun will reside in interesting characters that collide in interesting ways, rather than specific battle setups.

People tell their friends about scenes in FTL or Organ Trail. I want them to talk about character arcs in The Day After.

My work at the moment is figuring out what that means on a data and systems level. I had a scene process worked out many months ago, but I’m tweaking that and exploring different ideas. Something simple like dialogue can have radically different implementations if you want the ability for someone to interrupt mid-conversation. Or have a conversation be seen in two different ways (say with inner monologue or just someone observing a conversation rather than participating). Some of this is fakeable with writing, some of it is not.

Goals

I had set myself a goal this year to have some sort of a working prototype by the end of this year. I’m unsure if I can do that. I’m real close. I could arbitrarily hack some game module together and declare it done. I think the big thing was getting the GUI done. Writing your own game engine can be an endless process without a game to show off. It’s best to draw some line under what you’ve done and focus on the game.

I’ve got one more dev report due this year, so I’ll try to give it a go. Christmas and all that that entails will get in the way of the game development, but that’s okay 🙂 I’ll see you, dear readers, next time just before New Years. Have a great Christmas.