Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: Asking Characters About Details

In last week’s report, I said that I had spent a lot of time on research and design, before starting to implement the concept of Beliefs about Topics in The Dungeon Under My House, my second Freshly Squeezed Entertainment project.

I continued the design and implementation work this past week.

Sprint 39: Pre-production and initialization

Planned and incomplete:

  • Characters speak when TALKed to

One of the biggest challenges in game design is going from the awesome ideas in your head to playable implementations, partly because in order to make something real, you then have to deal with details that your imagination elided away.

In my head, asking a character a question would involve choosing either a Topic or a Belief about a Topic to ask about.

It seems simple and elegant. There’s some state in the game, and a character can have a belief about that state.

So for instance, I might ask Fred if they know anything about Chris, or I might ask if they know the location of Chris. Chris the game object has a specific location, and a character can have a belief that Chris is in a particular location which might be different from the actual location.

But once I start thinking about how I could code it, I start questioning how simple it is. Asking “Where is Chris?” seems different from asking “Is Chris your friend?” and “Does Chris have 12 eggs?” and “Is Chris tired?”

Maybe it isn’t so simple.

So are there flavors of Beliefs? Does the game need to intelligently know what the player’s intent is by the type of Belief being asked? It might help at the very least with generating the text for the question and generating good-sounding responses.

But I can build up to that. I started by treating Beliefs as glorified key/value pairs. So a character might have an awareness about a Topic, and that topic then has an associated collection of Beliefs. So if I know about the existence of Chris, I know that Chris is a person, and so all people in the game have certain characteristics and properties, such as a location they occupy at any given moment. And any such state is fair game for another character to have a Belief about.

Also, a Belief should be based on something. At the moment, a character can have a Belief they’ve always known about, or they can directly observe it, or they can be told about the Belief. As you can imagine, this concept of a Belief’s source might influence how confident characters are in what they think they know.

Adding this kind of simple implementation of a Belief helped me quickly create characters with such Beliefs as well as allow the player to ask about them.

I created a subtopics menu, which appears when you select a Topic that has associated Beliefs. It required adding navigation for this submenu while also allowing the player to return back to the previous Topics list while still having the currently selected Topic shown as selected.

The Dungeon Under My House - asking about a Belief

A player can ask about that main Topic either from the subtopics menu or from the Topics menu, but now you can see in the subtopics menu at least one Belief to ask about.

The Dungeon Under My House - asking about a Belief

Unfortunately, you can’t actually ask about it yet, as I ran out of time before I could get the code in to handle a question about a Belief.

As of the end of the week, it might not look like I’ve done much, especially since you can’t actually complete the process of asking about a character’s location.

And maybe I haven’t, but slowly and surely it will come together. I hope.

Anyway, next is to actually finish this flow, and then I can create some characters with gaps in their knowledge who would love to be TOLD such exciting things as the location of someone else they can’t currently see.

Thanks for reading!

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