Why Not Games




City: Post IGF Submission

Written 2016-10-27

The primary focus of the past few months was to get the game to the first scenario as close to complete as possible as I wanted to submit a build to the IGF. That submission is now complete and you can watch a complete playthrough of the entire game here:

IGF Submission

The IGF submission went pretty well and I'm happy with what I turned in. It's a self-contained, complete story that showcases much of what I want the game to show.

However, in getting to this point, I've accrued a fair bit of debt on multiple axes. There's a lot of tech debt from short term hacks that I used to get things to a working state. I think that there are a number of systems running that just do not do anything at all as the entities they would affect have been removed. I think that the entities themselves hold data that no system uses anymore. I even think some of these entities hold no useful data at all. This makes changing the code more painful than it should be and that slows iteration greatly. Additionally, it's just satisfying to clean up.

Similarly, there's debt in both the story and the art. There are things that don't belong, things that are ugly hacks and things that need to be replaced. There are fewer of these than tech issues because they are more visible to the player, and so were a higher priority to fix, but they still exist.

Also, there's just the simple fact that I'm a little exhausted after the past couple of months. This fact's main purpose is to serve as a good excuse to let me catch up with the games that I want to play. I've already done a couple of rounds of the Zubmariner expansion to Sunless Sea and am making my way through Civ 6 now. The fact that I've held off on it for for so long is a minor miracle.

The Story

I'm moderately happy with where the story is right now. The Quiet Sleep is meant to be an introductory campaign and it does that well. There are definitely flaws in it as it stands, the biggest of which is how linear it is. There are only a few decision points, and they are more rigid than I would like. However, it works fine for a starter campaign and that's all it needed to do.

I want my other stories in this game to be more experimental however and will soon write a follow-up article on what I need a story to achieve and possible ways to get there.

Tech Updates

In getting everything to work, I ended up with two major features that I feel have really changed what the game can do.

Goal Buttons

This feature allows players to put down goals in the same way that they put down towers. This lets me put down optional goals, like understanding a memory or chatting with a person, without crowding the screen with them.

This is a small change, but it drastically increases the amount that the game can express. As the player is now able to remake goals and choose which ones to take, I can give them more options and make those options more systemic. Essentially, this does a lot to help me make less linear scenarios as it can represent more branches and make those branches less dependent on each other.

New Memory System

I completely overhauled the memory system and the emotion generation system. Now, when the game makes an emotion source, like sadness at missing home for instance, it first makes the trait representing that sadness, and then builds a tower there to actually generate that sadness. So, these towers are like all the other towers, except that they make emotions instead and make those trains automatically. Also, this makes the memory trait accessible from the moment that emotion is generated, which I like as it is better storytelling and also better gameplay. Giving the players access to the towers of the memory traits more consistently plays better than having them be sporadic.

Also, this makes the map much more alive. I had wanted the feeling of the mind operating without the player's direct control for a while and this worked out to a beautiful way to achieve that.

Next Steps

So, I'm going to take a little time to pay off all of the debt that I picked up and to prepare the next story. I'm also going to take a look at the minor tasks left for The Quiet Sleep and see what is worth getting done there as well. Until then, I would really appreciate it if you could play the game (message me if you don't have a key and want one) and tell me what you think.

- @murthynikhil

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Written for Why Not Games.