Nemeton's End Results, Torchbug Round 2, and FTI

The last couple of months have been interesting. While there's been plenty to write about, there hasn't been a lot of time to write them. So here's a bit of a summary of what's been going on.

Nemeton's End

The NE development finished up on time for submission, and I was pretty happy with the overall result. There's a lot more that could have been done, and quite a few features that had to be cut in the last couple of weeks of development, largely due to my own oversights in scope. To put it in the words of my lecturer in the submission feedback (with which I wholeheartedly agree):

The game itself is full of interesting ideas, though from an end-user perspective this is perhaps a rare case in which the whole does not quite match up to the sum of its parts
— Hadyn Lander

In hindsight, I spent far too long in the early weeks prototyping interesting systems that didn't add enough to the end product to justify the time spent on them. Things like the planning algorithms ended up being replaced in later weeks by simpler, more efficient state machines. While the process of figuring out how to write them was definitely beneficial, it didn't result in a better game.

So where is it?

Still getting polished is the short answer. While I'm happy with the submission build, there're a couple more things I'd like to finish off before putting the game up for public download. Some are aesthetic, like extra assets from Jordan, but others are more core to the initial game scope - namely a scripted endgame requirement.

Expect some more within the coming weeks. I only plan on spending a couple more days on the project, as the temptation otherwise is to keep working on it indefinitely (which I'd enjoy, but there're other things afoot!). With any luck I'll be putting it up for public download soon, though.

Torchbug

Dev Cycle 2 of Torchbug has recommenced. While we've been batting ideas back and forth for the last few months, development officially started a week ago today. The main focus for this round of development is to create a more polished, focused experience in time for Supanova, on the 28th of June, where we'll be presenting the game in association with Red Bird Creative.

The main goals for this round of development are:

  • A focus on story-driven gameplay. The last public version of Torchbug was fine, but it really didn't have much of a story. Sure, there was an opening and closing cinematic, but aside from mission text there wasn't a whole lot of story to go on. 
  • Full Voice Acting & Cinematic cutscenes. Somewhat related to the story content, we want to create a fully voiced story with a proper narrative structure. This will be used alongside the character creator to ensure that your custom character will be able to speak in a voice of your choosing.
  • Ship and Space Mechanics. While ship to ship combat likely won't make it in (it's an expanded scope goal at the moment), we want the player to be able to interact and use their ship to fly to different destinations.
  • Expanded RPG Mechanics. The RPG System was left by the wayside in the latter weeks of the last round of development, largely due to lack of time. This feature also includes a WoW-style character creation screen, where players can customize the appearance of their crew.
  • Upgrades of nearly every asset to Unity 5's Physically Based Shading (PBS) shader. This involves the recreation of nearly every texture to give a cohesive finish.
  • An Overhaul of the GUI system. Our original GUI was hand-coded in its initial implementation, which means that we could never take advantage of the features of Unity 4.6's Canvas system.

Most of my last week has been concentrated between the GUI Overhaul and Script Writing, both pretty tricky tasks. As mentioned, the original GUI was all hard coded, so I'm having to dismantle a lot of scripts and then rebuild them, restructuring the entire thing to fit in with the new Canvas system. 

 A before and after of the character portraits. In the final version, the portrait will be a small screengrab of the character themselves.

A before and after of the character portraits. In the final version, the portrait will be a small screengrab of the character themselves.

Script writing is also no easy task. Because of the dynamic nature of the crew, I need to ensure that each line of dialogue won't be repeated by the same person. An example exchange from the opening cutscene is below:

CAPTAIN (*if PILOT == CAPTAIN){MECHANIC(Intercom)}): Anywhere we can stop for gas?

PILOT: Let’s see… Looks like there’s a colony on one of the inner planets.

That odd pseudocode is how I've been writing most of the dialogue. In the above example, the Captain asks where to stop for gas. However, if the captain is the pilot, we don't want them to ask and then answer their own question. In that case, the mechanic delivers the line over an intercom (using a simple high pass filter in-engine).

 This is a before-and-after example of the PBS workflow. The one on the right uses far less polygons to give a much more reactive effect.

This is a before-and-after example of the PBS workflow. The one on the right uses far less polygons to give a much more reactive effect.

These individual lines will then be compiled into a full crew script, which each voice actor will perform. This means that the voice selected by the player for each crew member at the start should be able to say any line required by the story. A little bit like how Star Wars: The Old Republic did it.

I'm still working on dialogue for the third level, but hopefully I'll have a full script compiled to pass on to our Audio guys as soon as possible.

Overall, it's a pretty big scope that we're looking to complete before the end of June, but we've got the benefit of a largely student team who're on holidays until the start of next week, and their workload (for the most part) won't be too intensive in school until around mid July. 

FTI

And the last bit of news is that I've started an internship at the Film and Television Institute, working for the Games & Interactive Department. I'm mainly there in a support capacity, working on web administration, graphic design, and a bit of event organization. For anyone reading in Perth, they've got a couple of events coming up soon that you should come down to!

It's probably worth noting that as an intern I have no obligation to post about these things, but here I am plugging nonetheless!


I'll make an effort to post more about development over the coming weeks, as well as show off what we've got!