I am happy to report that all the items are placed. Every line in my recipe chart has a "found in" notation! ...I'm telling this out of order.
The first half of the month, I caught up on the implementation that I planned last month. That is, I created the ten new rooms (plus some cabinets) that all of October's placements required. And the navigation between them. And the locks on their doors, where appropriate. And the goal-tracking to open the locks.
In the second half of November, I decided all the placements for the latter half of the game. (Two "chapters", but as I said, the chapter numbers do not reflect either game pacing or numbers of objects.) The map grew another couple of rooms, and several more locked cabinets, but I have not yet implemented these.
You might think that the first half of the month was difficult coding work, and the second half was lazily scribbling in locations on a chart. Ha. No. Code is easy. Decisions are difficult.
Every decision is wading into a hazy cloud of "this will probably be okay" and throwing away 99% of it. Most of the possibilities that I discard are fine. Some look fine, but will trip me up later. I have to make sure that the one I keep doesn't trip me up. And then I have to make sure that I like the pacing -- where it shows up in the player's run-through. Or rather, the range in which it might show up. Too soon? Too much confusion early on? Might the player run into the hard-but-correct solution to a puzzle before the easy-red-herring solution? That would be embarrassing.
And then I do it again, and again. I've been doing it all day. My brain hurts.
(Yeah, I'm writing this on the evening of Dec 1st. Procrastination struck after Thanksgiving. I caught up.)
So, okay. I have (nearly) hit a serious milestone, and I am declaring a (sort of) vacation month. My brain needs to stop hurting for a while.
In December I will implement those last rooms and cabinets, so that I can say I've actually placed everything in the game. But I'm not going to work on HL otherwise. I will do holiday things. I will bake a lot of cookies. I may play the latest Bioshock.
I have a sneaky idea for another iOS text game, which I might try to crank out by the end of the year...
I spent the weekend at a delightful little game-dev conference at NYU. Much cool stuff happened there. However, I want to focus on Saturday morning.
Saturday's first talk was by Warren Spector, who has recently switched from developing games (Deus Ex, etc) to teaching the subject at UTexas. His thesis was simple: emergent gameplay, emergent gameplay, emergent gameplay are you listening people.
Here's a writeup of Spector's talk, thanks to Leigh Alexander and Gamasutra.
(Footnote: the quality of emergent gameplay should be referred to as "emergency". As in, "Yeah, that game had a lot of emergency." Hat tip to Vernor Vinge for pointing this out.)
Spector tried not to say "Everything else sucks." He stated right off that he was oversimplifying, and that he's just presenting the kind of games that interest him. But it was hard to avoid the subtext that any scripted, linear, or single-solution interaction was inferior -- bad game design. Inherently. That if players tried the emergent (simulative, rules-based) gameplay they'd be happier and never go back.
To celebrate this, I am declaring an Age Jam! Stop by, build an Age, show it off. It doesn't have to be a prize-winner. In fact there will be no prizes. This is an opportunity to try the tools and get some feedback.
I'm not going to get formal about the rules, but I do want to have some fun with it. Therefore, a schedule!
- Sunday, Nov 10, 1 pm Eastern time: Opening ceremony in the Seltani district plaza. I announce the theme: "Remaining Light".
(The plaza is in the Seltani district. Sign in, link into the Cavern, follow the path along the shoreline and then head right at the fork. Can't miss it.)
(The theme is just for inspiration. Interpret it however you want.)
Nov 10-23: Work on your Age! (Or Ages; multiple entries is cool.) When it's ready, add it to the bookshelf in the Seltani plaza. Or if you want to go for the dramatic reveal, wait and add it on...
Sunday, Nov 24, 1 pm Eastern time: Wrap-up. Meet back in the plaza, start visiting Ages. We can have group tours over the course of the afternoon, and then hang out and discuss what we've seen.
(I know that the meeting time is not ideal for everybody in every time zone. I have schedule restrictions too, so I just picked a time. If you can't be at either ceremony or both, I apologize -- follow along on the blog or the forums.)
I will be around these on-line areas (including Seltani itself) to answer questions during the two-week period. Hope to see you there.
Not goodbye forever, or even for the rest of the year. But it's Halloween; it's been damp and grey all day; and I just returned from the annual Somerville Anti-Morris Dance. Feels like putting the sun to bed.
I spent the first half of October dealing with the remaining major puzzles -- the ones outside the starship. Naturally, this was more work than I expected (it's always more work than you expected) but I got it hammered out.
Then, on to the map! This was more than just adding rooms -- it's about positioning objects and clues.
I've long had a list of important puzzle elements, and a sense of where they appear in the storyline: these in chapter one, those in chapter two, that one behind locked door X, and so on. But most of them weren't actually present on the map. So for the past week, I've been going through the storyline, chapter by chapter, and marking down locations for absolutely everything.
The rumor-noise was for the beginning of November, but I guess they were ready sooner than that. Greet Obduction:
Obduction begins with... well an abduction - your abduction. On a crystal clear, moon-lit night, a curious, organic artifact drops from the sky and inexplicably whisks you away across the universes to who-knows-where (or when, or why). -- from the Kickstarter page
And there's an abandoned white house with a picket fence in the middle of a fantastical landscape. Adventure-game history acknowledges the nod.
Gasp. Late, but triumphant. It's October 2, but I've just finished the last major puzzle item... if, okay, I fudge a little on "major".
All the horrible details with lead weights have been resolved. A puzzle with elemental fire which I completely forgot about until this week: implemented. And I've beaten out nearly all the quirks of map navigation which I was worried about. (There were a lot of quirks. Really it's the majority of what I've done this month.) (Because I was procrastinating on the lead weights, that's why. Every time I looked at the lead weights, I'd say "Hey, how about I polish off another map route instead?" And I'd do that! It's the good kind of procrastination.)
So yeah, all the major puzzles, except the "outside the starship" ones which, okay, I haven't gotten to yet.
You can count that as a miss, but it was a lot of map quirks. Anyhow, I get to declare a new milestone. End of October: outside-ship puzzles, and add all the little detail rooms. That is, all the locations which are currently globbed on my map as "player reaches here chapter 2". There's no puzzle involved in reaching these locations, which is why I've glossed over them until now; they're for realism (what does an alchemical starship require?) and pacing (is the player's rate of exploration smooth? Are objects too bunched up?) Not really hard work; but annoying work, because I have to make decisions and think about the high-level game structure. It's a big structure.
Other IF notes for the month:
The annual IFComp has begun! 36 short text games. That's way more than last year. The growth is primarily in the choice-based sector; the Twine community has more links to us old-school IF folks these days, and apparently they are paying more attention to IFComp. Anyhow, anybody can vote, so try some games.
A nifty article appeared on teaching English composition with IF; specifically, with my game The Dreamhold.
And finally, I'll be showing off Seltani at a demo night of the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment. That sounds daunting, but I'm not part of the conference per se; it'll just be a bunch of game developers and academic folks hanging out, demoing projects, and talking about them.
That, I guess, is all the news for September. See you Halloween-ish.
(No, "eidolons" has no significance in this post except that it sounds good.)
Twenty years ago yesterday, Myst showed up on store shelves for the first time. Not a bad start to an era.
Myst-related news has been thin recently, but Cyan took the anniversary opportunity to announce that they're working on a new update of the classic game: RealMyst Masterpiece Edition. Their news post includes three preview screenshots.
This weekend was awesome and contained practically no disasters at all. At least, none that happened directly to me or anything I was responsible for. I am very happy about that. (Some people did have travel-related disasters, but everyone showed up eventually.)
The holiday weekend is over, so it's September by anybody's definition. Where are we?
I got one of the lead-weight puzzles hammered into shape. (Not a pun, it's not a hammering puzzle.) I implemented the alchemical effects that deal with the lead weight -- and some other lead objects lying around, of course, because you gotta acknowledge consistency. I put in some common verbs ("free", "release", "unfasten") which I've been meaning to do for months. I dealt with several irritating map-navigation cases.
Not done: the other major lead-weight puzzle; the puzzle elements outside the starship; more map quirks. Since that's roughly equivalent in scope to what I did this month -- and half of what I described as "remaining major puzzle items" last month -- I'm happy to say that September should cover them.
Once again this is a short update, but you get a September milestone out of it, at least.
My non-HL milestone for the month was presenting Seltani at a Myst fan convention (at the beginning of August) and then to the rest of the Internet. You can read the introductory talk on my web site, if you haven't already. Try it out! Ages are being added nigh-daily, at this point.
I haven't been working on Seltani intensively -- that was May and June -- but I've been bumping the features and bug fixes forward, with the help of the first wave of dedicated users. (Thanks, users!) I will continue to push on it in combination with all my other crazy projects, because I believe in it.
And I will see you all at the end of the month.