It feels really good to be filling out this game with the latest lore related codex entries I've been creating. I've had them on my todo list for quite some time, and I've just had that boost of energy to do them, so I've been systematically knocking them out on the train rides.
Now, I know I've always been a "Show me, don't tell me" type of game designer, but you can't fit everything about a game world into the playable experience. Especially stuff regarding things that have happened in the past. Sure, you can have cast members reference these things to a point (which I do), but adding codexes to just fill things out is more than acceptable in my mind.
Game design principles aside, just actually taking vague one line descirptions of things, and filling them in with actual content just feels good. Take the Ministry of Justice, a group that should be easily recognizable by fans of the first 2 games. They have a huge presence throughout those games, and yet, you really don't get a chance to really know all the intricacies of their order. Hell, even I, as the damn writer didn't have that much detail on them. This time around, the player will learn much, much more about them.
I think this iterative process is quite natural, where the world just continues to expand as you're dreaming it up, and besides custom ability/combat design, this is one of the things I have the most fun with.
Tomorrow, I'll work on some more codex entries, as well as sneak in some exterior level polishing.
Here's another track from Soul Calibur 5. A funny little story, actually... I borrowed it from a co-worker some time last year, really, for one thing... Listen to all the music in it :) Of course I played it a bit, but I was more concerned with the music. Anyway, enjoy!
2/26/13 -Tuesday: DEJA VU...
So every time I work on a game, two things happen. One, I encounter a bug so terrifying, that it puts me into a panic attack every time it happens. It's a bug that is usually around for many months, due to me not being able to fix it, and when I do, it's like it's Christmas morning! I've already encountered such a bug, unfortunately for me, another one like it exists. But I'll cross that bridge when I have to. The second thing that always happens is some sort of hardware issues.
When working on The Coming, my desktop just got too damn slow for development, and I needed something else. I would eventually get a new laptop, and during work on Cry The Beloved, said laptop started to experience overheating problems, problems which made development damn near impossible. I was forced back onto the desktop I was so happy to get away from.
Well, fast forward many years, and it's deja vu all over again. My current laptop has been shutting off whenever I'm stressing it too much. It's not all bad, because it seems like it only happens on days I work from home, where the laptop is on all day. If I just use it for an hour here or there on the train, there are no issues. I'm assuming it's an overheating issue, and that I just need to open the thing up and blow out some of the dust.
Luckily, I have my new desktop, and the division of work couldn't be any better. All scripts, conversations, lore related plots, things that don't kill the laptop are done on, well, the laptop. Heavier things, such as the ongoing exterior level polishing takes place on the desktop.
It's not the most ideal situation, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Well, I've had to switch gears with regards to the music I wanted to have, because of some copyright issues when embedding them. Oh well, on to the next one. This music, from Soul Calibur 5 is quite new, and even though I haven't played the game that much, the music is just as epic as it is in the other games in the series. Enjoy!
2/24/13 -Sunday: I'M BACK???
First and foremost, I feel absolutely disgusting that I a) haven't been posting daily, as the name of this journal would suggest (yes, the irony over the years has not been lost on me), and b) other things keep popping up. I would have to say though, this past week, it was all me. A few weeks ago, I took a few days to myself to recuperate a little bit to make this final push, and well, those few days turned into damn near a week!
Now, to be fair, I have been working on things, just nothing major enough to write about every day. For instance, I've been on a plot/lore kick recently. It sort of started when I had that 8+ hour Skype chat with Alexander Baxter a few weeks ago, where he was like, "Wouldn't it be cool if X happened?!". That really got me going, and since then, ideas have just been flooding in. Besides actual plot situations, lots of lore has been brainstormed as well. I should clarify that the lore itself has been there, it just needed to be better explained so it could be added to codex entries. I've probably added about 9 "Culture & History" plot entries, with another 2-3 I should be able to knock out on the train tomorrow.
The most significant thing I've done in weeks is start the final round of polishing on exterior levels. Unless I'm forgetting some, there should be 9 of them left. The changes that need to be made vary from level to level, but it's a decent amount of work. Actually, it was quite funny. I was all ready to get started yesterday. My wife wanted me to go somewhere with her, maybe food shopping (because there's nothing I'd rather do than that on a lazy Sunday), and I was trying to convince her that I need to just sit down and force myself to work. It's hard to explain, but sometimes, the drive isn't there, but that doesn't matter. I've learned that once I sit down and force myself to work, "something" will come out of it. And that's exactly what happened.
I decided to start with a fairly sizeable level, but one that really only needed props added, not a lot of actual terrain changes/overhauls. At first, I really wasn't sure what I needed. Then, I start sifting through props using DATool, and soon enough, I started finding things I could use. A few hours later, the level was looking hella good, and just seemed to have a lot more depth than before. Look, I'm no level design expert, but I've already made the decision that this go round, I'll be doing all of it, so, it is what it is.
There are a few changes I need to make, such as pushing some boats that are supposed to be in the sea a little further back on the horizon. There is no "bobbing" animation for them, so it looks weird to see them just sitting staticly in the way without moving. Now that I think about it, there could be placeable version of said boats, that could possibly be hacked together so they simulate movement, but yeah, I don't have time for all of that. Pushing them further back into the sea where you can only catch glimpses of them should be well enough. We'll see...
Tomorrow, on the train, I'll continue my work with plot/lore related things, and when I get home, get back to level design on the desktop.
2/16/13 -Saturday: STUPID CUSTOM TINTS...
Stupid custom tints... So, say what you will about the Aurora Engine, but one of the most important features for me was the ability to, within the editor, change the color of items, armor, clothing, swords, etc. Not only that, but because of the way you could customize each of the above item types using different pieces, you could color those individual pieces as well. Now, I'm not aware of the technical reasons as to why you can't do this in the Eclipse Engine, but it's certainly something I miss.
Now, you can change the colors of items and such through the use of custom tints. Once you set these colors and export the tint, it can be applied to any item you want. So in that way, they're more extensible. But, that's not the point of this post.
So, I'm in the process of creating some custom clothes for a certain group of people in this game, the Dematolians. Those of you who played the original games know that there was a set style of clothing for them. More specifically:
Gray clothing with red stripe: Lowest Dematolian
Gray clothing with blue stripe: Next level Dematolian that has small control over other lower ones, and reports directly to Dematolian elder
Gray clothing with yellow stripe: Dematolian elder
Using custom tints, this should be easy... Or so I thought... For whatever reason, even though it looks good when I preview them in the editor, once I have them on someon in game, they look totally different. Because I was a little pissed off, and because I know I have so many other things to think about, I just tabled the idea and moved on :)
What can I say about this track? Well, it's definitely the best instrumental on the entire album. I can also say that I pilfered different sections of this song for different bits of music in Cry The Beloved. That's how diverse it is, actually. Anyway, enjoy!
2/15/13 -Friday: FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF A NEW CHARACTER...
So, I believe I mentioned that I had created a new character a while back, not even knowing if it was going to be possible to get a voice actor. Fast forward a few months, and not only do I have RP Singh doing the voice (quite well, I should add), but now this character is quickly growing in importance in the game. They initially had one conversation, maybe 10 lines, now it's looking to be 3, possibly 4 conversations! As always, I'm not adding someone simply to add someone. It just adds a little more depth to the world.
In terms of the work I did, once I realized this one-off character needed to be more important, I did the important task of brainstorming a backstory for them. Once that was done, I created a "Character" codex for them, and implemented it in the game for when you talk to them for the first time. I also wrote and integrated their 2nd conversation, and all the plot related scripting involved with it.
Tomorrow, I'll give them some custom clothing, a new face morph (to better fit the voice), and brainstorm these other 2 conversations I may/may not give them.
Once I'm done with this character, I'll be damn close to being finished adding all the extras to this one part of the game. After that, I'll move on to some level polishing off some exterior levels... *Groans*
The more and more I share these Disney instrumentals, the more and more I realize I need to put Alan Menken (the composer) higher on my list of favorite artists. Anyway, enjoy!
2/12/13 -Tuesday: SLIGHTLY BACK ON TRACK... AGAIN...
So yeah, damn near another week of silence. A few of those days were due to the ongoing extra curricular activities in my life (hopefully ending soon), the rest were self imposed days of non-work. Over the weekend, I tried something new. I didn't work on any project. I just happily hung out at my house, playing my new favorite game, Fire Emblem: Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS. Man, that shit was fun, can't wait until I have my weekends back for real!
When I was working on the game, it was mostly codex/lore related things. There is this backstory of an important person in history (at least, important to the people you're around in the beginning of the game) that I've been writing for some time. I didn't want to force it, so I just had to let it naturally come to me over a few weeks. Today, I finally put the finishing touches on it. I have to admit, just writing it out, and thinking about it, I was already thinking how interesting a little game would be, set back thousands of years in the past. But, I can't get ahead of myself!
Anyway, once the lore was written, I broke it up into 4 logical parts, put those in codex entries, and added said codexes to these tablets in a certain area of the game. It's this room where the people worhsip this person, so it made sense to have codex entries about him in there. It's also not exactly out in the open, so the player may or may not see them. I've come to grips with the fact that I'm going to have to make content that not everyone is going to see. I can't have these damn exclamation marks all over the place, like, "Hey you, adventurer, you must go here too! I spent a shitload of time designing it, please experience it!".
This work, along with the NPC extras I added last week, need some scripts around them, just to complete everything. For instance, I need to activate/deactivate the extras depending on what's going on in the game, and for the codexes, you could either run into them at night, or during the day. So, I need to keep track of which ones have been read, and make sure to deactivate them when the player enters the day/night section of the area.
I hope to continue to slowly build up my momentum again. I need to make this one last final push!
Here's another great song I could see in a video game. The first bit is maybe the most hokey of it, but the last bit is pure gold. Enjoy!
2/7/13 -Thursday: SLIGHTLY BACK ON TRACK...
Man, oh man, what a busy/stressful week. I cannot begin to try to explain to folks how much I can't wait until I'm not working on 3 projects in parallel. This guy needs a vacation!
At work, I'm sort of a floater, meaning I don't just work on one particular system, or team. Whether it's backend server work, media ingestion, or media transcoding, I'm all over the place. Well, some of my managers thougt it would be good to have a code jam for 3 days, where all I did was sit in a room with some other members of a particular team, and just... well, code. No outside requests from other teams, just straight up work. While it was nice to freely tell people to leave me the hell alone for 3 days, I was still working, which by itself, is fine. Add in 2 other projects, and now, it seems like the straw that broke the camels back. Eh, whatever. I did learn a lot of new things about Python, the coding language of choice for this particular project.
Then there's this other outside project I'm working on. It's been super crunch time for about 2 weeks straight, and it's sucking the rest of the soul out of my body. I just have to keep telling myself that it will be over soon. Yes, yes, it will all be over soon! :)
In between all of this, I've been sneaking in time to get some work done, the work that turns out to be the most important to me: Rose of Eternity. On the VO front, RP Singhsent me some new stuff to integrate into the game. I do have some things I'd like him to tweak, but overall, I like it. Actually, as I always say, I needed to get it in the game before I could make the determination on if I was cool with it or not. The scene's music, the actual character gestures/facial animations, etc., really bring everything together. Hell, I even ended up making a new face morph for the character, which really improved things.
Another thing I did was create a new parent plot for every section of the game (Prologue, Act 1, Act 2, etc.), so that for every journal entry you get, it could be placed under the appropriate one. Just an organizational thing. I also modified some of the cut-scenes where each sections starts, so I could actually display the name of it.
We have yet another big storm hitting our area, so I'll be working from home on Friday, meaning that I'll potentially have more time for development since I don't have to deal with an annoying commute. Here's hoping I can actually make use of this time!
Today's music is, without a doubt, a Disney instrumental. I mean, when I hear it, it just screams Disney! Anyway, enjoy!
2/3/13 -Sunday: DISTRACTIONS...
STATE OF THE UNION
So, I have silenty put to rest fears of not getting this game out during Dragon Age's peak. At this point, that ship has sailed, so I'm just focused on putting out the highest quality game that I can, given the constraints of that little thing called... life...
You know, the saying, the last 10% of game development takes 90% of the time is ringing true today, though not all of it is directly related to the game. Other work has pulled me from this project, unfortunately, work that should be done very soon. It's actually a good thing, because I've been balancing this thing of commuting to real work 5 hours a day, working on this game, working on this other project, and also attempting to keep my sanity, unlike what happened to me during the last month of development for Cry The Beloved.
Even though I didn't get as much done, content wise, it was a very productive month just the same. RP Singh fell out of the heavens on my lap, and knocked out the voices of some major characters very quickly. Alaexander has become less of an actor, and more of a contributor to the game (lore wise). Don't get it twisted though, the boy can still act his ass off!
The main thing I did, content wise, was just start to fill the game with all the trimmings:
minor (voiced) characters
Look, the main structure of the game has been done for quite some time. As is standard, it's now all about the polishing, and how to bring the world alive when you're running from objective A -> B. Those above 3 bullet points (and more) should help flesh out the world to an even greater degree.
The one new thing I've been working on is breaking the game down into parts, and naming them accordingly. The way I see it, there's a:
Really going out of the box, I know! :) Even still, once I started looking at the game as a whole, it easily fit into these categories. The only thing that is left is to give these the appropriate names, and making sure that when the player gets to each new section of the game, it's displayed properly.
This month, I expect work on the other project to slow down, and I expect I'll be able to really get back on track with this game. Some more level polishing, some more conversations (inspired by RPSingh), as well as some new lines for Alexander. Oh, and LOTS of lore, via codexes, to add.