Weekly Links #207
Hello, everyone. It was an incredibly stressful and exhausting development week, which ended up with me ripping out and replacing part of the level generation. At least now I have genuine control over content distribution, and have been making progress in leaps and bounds for a change. But that's a story for the next update. For now, here's what I learned:
- When your own game frustrates you to tears during test runs, it's not "hard". The balance is broken.
- When procedurally generating loot, start out generous and tighten the belt as needed. It's a lot easier.
It's really that simple. But achieving simplicity is often the hard part.
Anyway, on to the news. There were lots and lots of improvements to the game during the sixth week of development, but not much new in the way of visuals, and The Fairy's Throne doesn't really lend itself to a gameplay video. So I tried to add enough content for a slideshow, which in turn required repeated cycles of testing, rebalancing and tearing my hair out. Ended up adding several new features, and still having to make the game easier... then easier still. Keep in mind, that was just so I could play through to level 10 and take screenshots along the way!
(It was supposed to be level 12, but an overpowered enemy stopped me early.)
Anyway, improvements include:
- blessings and curses;
- undead creatures;
- better spell selection;
- various UI refinements;
- debugging support.
Next, to start writing a player's guide, then add content for the remaining half of the game.
This space is supposed to be mostly for news, but sometimes older stuff is just too good to pass up. K.D. points at an Eurogamer article about the making of Alpha Protocol, and damn. This may be Obsidian Entertainment, but they sure weren't at all immune to the industry's stereotypical mistakes. I mean, seriously? Quick time events were already a bad idea when Dragon's Lair hit the arcades in 1983, and never stopped being one in the intervening 35 years. And when you interrupt your shooter, RPG or whatever to implement the coolest scenes you can think of via quicktime events... dude, you picked the wrong medium. Also, gee, you mean shallow one-off interactions that don't tie into anything else are a waste of time and energy? Any interactive fiction author could have told you that.
At least people have learned in the mean time not to leave the fate of a franchise in the hands of a greedy publisher that is by definition unable to grasp the value of anything except a sum of money. Could be worse.
This week PCGamer surprises me again by publishing an overview of visual novel authoring tools. To their credit, they start with Ren'Py, as they should. Even better, they point out it's actually easier than tools that don't require coding! Wish they had also mentioned WebStory Engine while they were at it, but they probably looked at tools that were used for relatively known games.
More amusing is how they describe the process of creating a VN. As I wrote before, no-one ever does all the writing and art for a game, then worry about putting it all together, because making the content is the hard part! Getting a little dude to run around a mostly deserted map is the kind of thing you do in hours or days as you teach yourself Pygame or whatever from scratch.
But that's a nitpick. Go see what they have to say.
From Jimmy Maher, a.k.a. The Digital Antiquarian, we learn that in 1990 CompuServe hosted a virtual game developers' conference featuring the biggest names in adventure gaming at the time. The great news? The transcript has been recovered, and he just published it! Turns out, there's a reason these people are living legends. Pay attention to Dave Lebling pointing out the need to use the computer for its own unique strengths, interactivity in particular, and the Coles predicting the present-day interactive fiction market. All this while Roberta Williams kept talking about the future of games as glorified movies. Can you guess why graphical adventure games went under by the end of that decade?
Another thing that keeps coming up in that conversation is market pressure, and it's great that three decades down the road creators can finally afford to make the games they feel strongly about, not necessarily those that will sell. But look how even players request games with more realistic, mature themes... then fail to buy them! Doesn't anyone understand why escapism is always by far the biggest thing in entertainment? Especially in this crumbling world?
Last but not least, our most active reader fluffy chimes in with advice on a little thing many, many game developers struggle with: networking, that unscrupulous marketers have turned into a dirty word. Spoiler alert: it just means "talking to people".
And that's it until next time. Thank you, and enjoy!