Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: More Character Customization & Dialogue Ideas

A couple of weeks ago, I reported that I was working on character customization for The Dungeon Under My House, my second Freshly Squeezed Entertainment project.

While I had a trip with my family for a long weekend, I continued to make progress over the last two sprints.

Sprints 30 & 31: Pre-production and initialization

Planned and incomplete:

  • Revise character customization

Sometimes you don’t see how much work there is until you’re in the middle of it.

And I keep finding new ways to add complexity to character customization and rendering.

When I originally envisioned this work, there would be multiple options for different facial features. So the work was to create a bunch of buttons and art for noses, then do the same for mouths, then do the same for hair, etc.

But more and more, it feels like I need to account for how things are offset based on the face shape. A head of hair looks fine on a round head but not so fine on a wide one.

Or in the case of mouths, I need to separate the lips from the teeth, so instead of a single thing to draw, I have two, mainly because if I give the player the option to change lip colors, then I don’t want the teeth to look like they are also changing colors.

The Dungeon Under My House - new character customization

The Dungeon Under My House - new character customization

The Dungeon Under My House - new character customization

I’m not entirely pleased with the actual art, especially with the mouths, but the variety does help a lot in terms of making the characters look more interesting. Each time you start a new game, you and your friends in the Explorer’s Club get randomized features.

The Dungeon Under My House - new character customization

I am still working on hair, which I am finding awkward. While I could make hair that always fits over each head type, it does limit my options. Another, more complex approach is to apply multiple hair sprites to the head using offsets and scales based on the head shape. So a tall skinny head would have a top hair sprite that might be scaled smaller in width, with left and right hair sprites that are offset closer to the middle, and a wide, short head would have a wider top hair sprite and the left and right hair sprites would be offset further away from the center.

The more complex approach offers some more capabilities, of course. For instance, in animating the character’s hair, it might look better to have multiple hair sprites that move independent of each other.

In any case, while I knew character customization was going to be complex, and even though I knew I was going to provide a limited set of options, I still underestimated the work.

Plus, I still need to implement clothing. I’m getting tired of the placeholder bodies I created.

At the same time, I’ve been investigating better ways to make dialogue more interactive and ensure the game feels less like sitting through unskippable cutscenes. I’m toying with having different types of dialogue. Along with the typical scripted sequence, I think creating arguments/debate could be interesting. An argument has adversaries, a topic to argue about, facts, and evidence. The goal of being involved in an argument might be to convince your adversary of your position, or to sow dissent, or to gain esteem. Perhaps each argument ends with learning something new about a topic, whether you win or lose the argument.

And of course, an entity’s experience, charisma, knowledge, and current state can impact how well they can argue. A nervous individual might be easily convinced by confusing dialogue, but a more confident individual might question their adversary’s actual understanding.

Being able to ask questions, listen, and talk will be primary actions, probably with a target entity or a group.

But of course this raises questions: should the player control the entire party, or just the main character? Controlling the entire party might be easier to implement, and it allows for strategy along the lines of determining which strengths to use and weaknesses to shore up.

But having indirect influence on your party members might be interesting. What would it look like if the player’s party can act independently of the player? Do you need to worry about a hothead blurting out too much info in a heated argument with another character? Will you get frustrated because the friend who would be great at convincing someone to let you by keeps getting talked over by a different friend who is confident yet very ignorant? And is that an enjoyable frustration to play through, or is it just plain annoying?

This dialogue work is more interesting to me, so I can’t wait to finish off the character customization work for the time being so I can start prototyping.

Thanks for reading!

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