Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: More Interactivity in Intro Sequence

Merry Christmas!

This is my final Freshly Squeezed Progress Report of 2023. In my previous report, I finished animating transitions and started working on making the intro sequence more interactive in The Dungeon Under My House, my second Freshly Squeezed Entertainment project.

I set out to finish the intro work.

Sprint 49: Pre-production and initialization

Planned and complete:

  • Redo intro to be more interactive

As Christmas was nearing, it also meant that I was going to have days off from the day job. While I imagined much of my time would be spent preparing for the holidays, especially with travel to visit family in Chicago, I was hoping I would also be able to squeeze in a bit of game development before the end of 2023.

Unfortunately, for the first time, I tested positive for COVID-19, which threw our plans out the window.

I wasn’t feeling well partway through the week, so I decided to test myself, got a very bright, very positive result, and immediately masked up and isolated from the family. Luckily they have tested negative, and we are privileged to have a spacious enough house that I can isolate from them.

I finished my last day of the year for the day job (I work remotely), but it was a struggle, and I needed a couple of uncharacteristic naps. I have since had fevers, a weird dry cough, spells of feeling tired, a stuffy head feeling, and having runny or stuffy nose at different times. It could be worse, but being sick on your vacation time and especially around the holidays sucks either way.

All that’s to say you should get vaccinated, mask up, and stay safe this holiday season.

As for what I was able to accomplish in game development, I would characterize it as iteratively polishing the intro.

Since the intro is now more interactive instead of just a long sequence of scripts, I needed to make sure that similar flags and triggers get set at the correct moments.

For instance, after the initiation ceremony for the new member, there needs to be a way to ensure the player goes on what I’m calling the Snack Quest. Basically, the new member suggests that they are hungry, and so a quest for snacks from the kitchen is proposed.

The Dungeon Under My House - start of Snack Quest

There are now multiple ways it can be started.

One, the original trigger than prevented the player from leaving until the ceremony is started is replaced with a trigger than prevents the player from leaving until the Snack Quest is introduced, and then starts the scripted sequence that does introduce it.

Two, if instead the player talks to the new member about the club, the same scripted sequence can occur.

And of course, once the sequence occurs, it shouldn’t happen again, so I had to make sure these sequences also include instructions/commands for changing flags and triggers to do so.

A trigger for preventing the player from leaving the bedroom can set the current script to the introduction of the Snack Quest, and the script sequence itself eventually disables that trigger, sets a new trigger for entering the kitchen, and updates the new member’s beliefs about the Explorer’s Club so that if you were to ask that character again, the response would be different.

The Dungeon Under My House - new dialogue after Snack Quest introduced

I am very quickly realizing that between triggers, flags, and script IDs, I had a number of similar-sounding names that were making things confusing on top of the fact that it was hard to visualize how they all interacted with each other.

There’s a lot of moving parts, and the game has hardly any content in it as it is! I definitely need a better way to plan, manage, and understand it than digging through my code and hoping I didn’t miss anything.

Working through this intro sequence is a bit frustrating because I am finding that there are some fundamental things I can’t do with my existing implementation. For instance, when you are in the basement, part of the interactive intro now requires the player to search for the pickles in the basement for the Snack Quest.

In my head, what happens is that the player knocks over the broom, which hits a secret brick, which opens a secret door.

The Dungeon Under My House - Basement room with secret door

In-game, for now, I still need a way to make that happen. The broom is currently just part of the background image of the main basement room. I need the broom to be a separate object, to have it animate, to have the brick in the wall be a separate object to animate, and to have the secret door appear after all of that.

So, nothing technically challenging, but it isn’t something I can just do. I need to actually have the broom be something represented in the code and as data, as well define how it gets interacted with, and how it is represented to the player.

Once I do this kind of work, however, similar things in the game could much more quickly be thrown in.

Another example is in the dungeon. Right now, all dungeon doors can just be opened or closed by the player. While I anticipated locked doors when I created them, there is no locking mechanism implemented yet.

The Dungeon Under My House - door rendering

But now I want not only a locked door but also a locked door that needs something special to open it.

Beyond just capabilities, here’s the actual game play I want to see: when the player enters the dungeon for the first time, it should be exciting to return and tell the rest of the Explorer’s Club about the discovery. But what if the player doesn’t?

Well, there should be a good reason to go back anyway. Or two.

One is to require the use of an item. So if the dungeon is too dark, then a flashlight sounds like a good thing to go back and get.

What if the player already acquired the flashlight by rummaging around earlier? Well, that’s fine. Always be prepared, right?

The Dungeon Under My House - dungeon intro design

The second reason to go back is because in order to open this door, the door bar needs to be moved, and it is too heavy to do alone. Moving it requires a full party. So if the player ran out of the bedroom without party members, then they need to go back.

What if the player got the flashlight AND also formed a party for the Snack Quest and so already has a party? Then full-steam ahead! That’s a good chunk of the Explorer’s Club doing some exploring, and they can always tell everyone else when they get back and might even have more to share when they do.

The dark dungeon and this door barrier ensures that the player knows how to talk to people, how to search and acquire items, and how to form a party. Sounds like a good intro sequence that onboards the player to figuring out how to play the game so far.

BUT, right now, I don’t have a concept of lighting in the dungeon, nor do I have doors with bars on them. Those need to implemented.

So updating this intro sequence is frustrating because I keep finding features and capabilities that I don’t have yet despite having worked on this project for the last year, but it is also helping me to identify what to work on next.

When I set out, I didn’t mean to spend a year in pre-production, but I really need to start making this game into a game that can be played, which means leveraging what has come before to actually create game play. My dungeon will turn from being a test case to being a place to actually explore, and as ideas and characters and situations get more concrete, I will need to revisit or create the code and data and art that I need to make it possible.

But after a year, I think I need to do an assessment of what features and capabilities I still need as well as what the game content will need to be. Too much is still too vague, and I really expected that more would be defined and playable by now when I first started.

But I’ll write more about it later.

For now, I hope you have a safe and merry holiday season!

Thanks for reading!

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