Lots of work done for the game’s story and it appears we’ll be having a public demo for the end of August. There’s also been some big updates to the art in the game and a new system for displaying to the player what in the environment is interactive.
“Do Not F**k Us On This.”
For the past several months there’s been a problem with the game regarding how to communicate a sense of urgency and investment to the player’s tasks. Since the player character is meant to be a blank slate I didn’t want to go with a detailed back story. The writing for the game works best when it’s simple and direct, so lengthy sequences of exposition to build empathy and engagement are out of the question.
The solution revealed itself while talking with a fellow indie developer. He agreed that the game mechanically was very good, but there’s no reason for the player to care about what’s going on. He then mentioned something very interesting where he said that ‘Mario gets away with minimal story since you’re thrown into a threatening world”. That’s when the solution occurred to me, instead of having empathy be the initial motivating factor…instead have it be fear.
During the game’s opening now, after you receive your initial assignment to goto Japan, as the player is about to leave and begin their quest your boss calls out to you:
This undercurrent of threat is then carried through the rest of the dialogue when dealing with people who are engaged in this deal. However, this is then contrasted by the interactions you have with people not associated with the deal who have a pleasant and helpful tone to them.
New Title Screen
The design for the previous title screen captured the generic visual zeitgeist of the 80’s it didn’t communicate the subject matter of the game. So I decided to redesign the title to look more corporate while still retaining some base elements of the original layout. The end result is certainly more in line with the game’s subject matter but it’s missing the energy of the previous layout, I’ll need to do another few revisions before I get it right.
New Hotel Bar Art
I’ve completed a first pass of the hotel bar background art. The environment has two discrete locations, the common dining area outside and the VIP area at the interior. The kanji on the tables in the VIP area translates to ‘Eat’. The mural on the north wall is a depiction of the Japanese folktale ‘The Cut Tongue Sparrow’ which is a old story about the ruin that greed can bring.
New Hotel Rooftop Patio Art
The hotel rooftop has been updated to add in more furniture to give it the feeling of an actual rooftop patio, before it was merely an open space. The layout has also been modified to give the player a small navigation puzzle. Since this is the 3rd time in a row that the player will be given an objective of ‘Go talk to someone’ the task needed a basic obstacle just to prevent the task from feeling repetitive.
Rough-In for Drinking Sequence Art
When demoing the drinking gameplay a lot of people were confused about what was going on during the sequence. So I roughed in a basic layout of everyone drinking around the table (serious programmer art). Really helps the scene to be readable now and is helping to inform the gameplay for the sequence as it develops.
Non-Interactive VS Interactive Objects
One of the game’s biggest design/art hurdles has been how to let the player know what they can and can’t interact with. I wanted to avoid the kind of trial and error that I see other games relying on where the player has to muddle around the environment interacting with this and that. The original approach I was going to take was going to be having interactive objects done in a different art style than the backgrounds (This is similar to how in japanese animation the characters are drawn in a simpler style than the backgrounds). However, this approach quickly revealed a problem where the art demands for the backgrounds would be substantial and I’d need to figure out how to get everything looking consistent. And how would I handle the objects that suddenly become interactive? Would they suddenly change art style in the middle of the scene?
After several attempts I think I have what will be the shipping solution to this problem. When an object is non-interactive it is desaturated and given a slight transparency. As a result it just kind of melts into the background and doesn’t look like something of concern. When the object needs the player’s attention it’s changed to a properly saturated image without transparency.
The game also uses this approach to indicate NPCs that the player can’t interact with. Allowing us to fill out environments like the Hotel Bar with lots of customers but keep it very clear who the player is supposed to be talking to.
For the next blog I have the following planned:
- Revisions to library environment
- Big UI improvements
- Fixes to the meeting sequence so it’s consistent with the drinking and dream sequences
- Localization system in place
- Sound effects implemented