Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: Easier Playtesting and an Intro

In my previous report, I created an Android port with the intention of making it easier to hand someone a demo, then placed residents in the titular house of The Dungeon Under My House, my second Freshly Squeezed Entertainment project.

I continued by making the ability for me and others to playtest a bit easier.

Sprints 25: Pre-production and initialization

Planned and complete:

  • Quit to main menu

Unplanned and complete:

  • Make house rooms into buttons

Unplanned and incomplete:

  • Create introduction script

One of the ways it would be easier to playtest the game is if I didn’t need to close it and restart it to try it from the beginning each time.

I added a way to quit to the main menu, which sounds simple, and mostly was, but part of the work involved thinking through the user interface a bit more. Up until now, the house view was basically a view of the room or house layout and some buttons on the side.

It’s still mostly the same, but I’m trying to anticipate what else I might want on the screen. For instance, the player’s party should be visible in some way. I also need room for buttons that might always be on the screen, and others that are contextual.

Which of course begs the question of what buttons I expect to need. I know I eventually want a button that lets the player see the map, and even though it hasn’t been implemented yet, I think the needs there are obvious. I also haven’t implemented dialogue/conversations yet, but in this case I don’t yet know what I want to provide the player.

So for now, I gave the background a color other than black, created a gear icon to represent “settings” and gave the settings modal the button to return to the main menu.

The Dungeon Under My House - UI work

The Dungeon Under My House - UI work

Next, I was tired of having the right side of the screen full of buttons representing each room in the house, so I created a button out of each room itself. It was fairly quick work.

Finally, I decided it was time to start talking.

That is, I’ve been thinking about how to design and implement the dialogue/conversation systems for a long time, but I need to start making something real. The current intro script has been nothing more than hardcoded menus, and I need to make it more general purpose so that more scripts can be more easily written.

As I’ve said before, my intention is not to merely create a simple dialogue tree like most games. If all I wanted was an NPC who repeats the same sentences until you choose the correct response option, it would be relatively simple and easy to implement. After all, my game Toytles: Leaf Raking (which, by the way, is on reverse sale this week, so feel free to check it out) features such dialogue, so I can always build on what I’ve already made.

Since The Dungeon Under My House will be a non-violent game, I wanted to have dialogue and interactions become more engaging and interesting to replace the otherwise compelling mechanics of hack and slash that is typically in a 1st person dungeon crawl. I don’t want to merely disguise hack and slash mechanics. I want conversations to be a completely different kind of game play.

Unfortunately, while I have a number of different ideas and directions to go in, there’s a lot of unknowns still.

For instance, should there be random encounters? It’s typical for this kind of game, and while it might be challenging to ensure these encounters are interesting and varied, it might make the dungeon feel more populated.

Alternatively, what if the encounters are with entities that you can see beforehand, that take up space in the dungeon? Then the player can choose when and where to engage with an entity, and my own work to write dialogue is limited to the characters I purposefully created.

I’m leaning heavily towards the latter, partly because I want conversations to be meaningful and impactful. If you talk to an entity who sticks around, you can build a relationship, whereas having random encounters results in a lot of interactions with strangers you never see again and won’t impact your life much.

I’m envisioning giving the player options to speak with a particular type of tone, to have different intents with messaging such as amusing or scaring or inspiring, to brush off, to merely listen intently, and to do any number of the kinds of things people actually do when they interact with others. I want NPCs to have memories of how they were treated, to have goals that dictate how they treat the player’s party members and others, and ways to influence and be influenced.

For now, though, an intro script will likely look much more like a typical dialogue tree, introducing the player to the game world and getting them to their first goal as quickly as possible.

Thanks for reading!

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