I have since finished the footwear menu and then moved on to some more interesting work.
Sprint 35: Pre-production and initialization
Planned and complete:
- Revise character customization
Unplanned and complete
- Defect: Android app won’t run
- Create party
With a variety of footwear, the player can now wear socks, shoes, sandals (but not socks AND sandals…yet), and boots. While I want to revisit the character art (especially faces), customization seems done enough.
And I could finally move on to some experiments with dialogue systems.
Except first I needed to figure out why the Android build I created wasn’t running.
Initially I thought it was a memory issue. In past projects I would kick myself when I needed larger sprites for another purpose, such as creating high quality icons or printed items, but I only had smaller sprites that worked well enough in-game.
So I’ve been trying to create large sprites on the order of 1024×1024 pixels, rather than something like 32×32 or 64×64.
While in the back of my head I thought that I might run into memory issues, especially when each item of customization is such a large source image, I figured I could address it later.
Fortunately, it turned out to be almost a non-issue. Basically, when I worked on updating the supported target API for Google Play for my other games, I upgraded each project’s configuration and SDL2 Android project source as well as my development system’s build tools.
But I didn’t update THIS unpublished project’s relevant configuration, so I was using newer build tools with an outdated source/configuration.
Once I updated a few of the project’s files and used the newer android-project from libSDL2, everything worked fine.
So I didn’t have a memory issue after all, and I can kick that can down the road.
NOW I could work on dialogue systems.
I thought of a few scenarios I wanted to support, and I considered having different kinds of conversation types that each communicated the player’s goals to the game, such as persuading someone to do or not do something, or share information, or whatever.
Then I looked back on all of the various notes I’ve taken for the past few months about conversation topics, the role of emotions, character goals, trust between characters, and more.
And at some point I realized that it might be easier for me to hang a design onto something more concrete, and that requires me finally putting together the concept of a party.
In this game, I decided to have the party consist of a maximum of three members, partly to keep things simpler for me to develop but also to keep things simpler for the player to track.
To start, I added a button so you can configure your party in the bedroom, where the Explorer’s Club meets. After some discussion with my friend Branwyn, I decided that there was no reason to restrict the party to just the kids and so the parents (or grandparents? caretakers?) in the kitchen can join, too. So instead of the typical “kids are the heroes, parents are oblivious or MIA” kind of story, you have the option to get one or both of your parents to explore the dungeon with you!
Since all characters in the game are Friend objects, and a party is made up of a collection of Friend objects, this functionality was easy to add.
And so now I just need to change the dialogue so that the speaker isn’t hiding behind the party HUD.
I could configure the party, then reconfigure the party elsewhere, and leave someone in a different location from where they originally started out. As you can see, a few characters are now in the kitchen instead of the bedroom. Perhaps splitting up needs to happen as game play to allow for two characters to manipulate things at once.
So now that I have a party, and that party will always have the player’s character as a member, I can start experimenting with the party interacting with other characters through dialogue.
Again, my goal with dialogue is to do more than merely have branching text output or have relationships build as a simple function of “you said something nice to X, so X likes you more by Y points. After Z points, they become a romance option” or something like that. And I don’t want dialogue to merely be combat mechanics in disguise.
But I want dialogue to be as compelling as the combat usually can be in typical 1st-person dungeon crawlers. Like real-life, you’re not necessarily trying to debate someone into submission. You’re both navigating the absurdity of communication, and you are mutually trying to understand and learn.
At the same time, I am a bit wary about how much content I would need to create. Will I necessarily need to write a bunch of dialogue to cover various scenarios? If I don’t write dialogue, can I get away with scripts that merely describe how the dialogue is happening (“You ask about [TOPIC]. Sam replies enthusiastically. You learn [XYZ]”) or will that come off as less compelling?
These are the kinds of things I probably should have been exploring since the beginning of the year.
One thing I realized that is going to make me revisit the face customization sooner than later is that I think emotions will play a key role. Someone who is afraid or angry is going to be less forthcoming with information than someone who is happy or confident.
Thanks for reading!
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