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999397 Posts in 39216 Topics- by 30625 Members - Latest Member: captain

April 23, 2014, 11:32:27 AM
TIGSource ForumsFeedbackDevLogsFinishedPapers, Please [Available 8/8]
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Author Topic: Papers, Please [Available 8/8]  (Read 144415 times)
dukope
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« Reply #645 on: October 11, 2013, 09:50:43 PM »

PAPER PLEASE IS ON A VALVE VIDEO ;OOOOO
W00000T

Haha yeah!

Valve emailed me yesterday asking if it was ok to show Papers Please in the demo vid. I appreciate them letting me know but this is a question that needn't be asked :D

Localization

At the moment I'm working on adding localization support to the game. This is much harder than it should be, mostly due to the large number of tiny pixel fonts in use (12) and the precise document layouts. Anyway, this is proceeding slowly.

My goal is to do professional translations for French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and possibly Russian. I've gotten a lot of offers for help here but I think there's a general underestimation of how much work a translation will be. There's over 10,000 words in the game; much of it is gameplay-critical with common terms that have to be cross-referenced.

Instead of loading up on every possible language from the start, I'll release the localization tool publicly. That will make it easy (easier) to create a fan translation for the game, package it up into a single file, and distribute it for others to use.

Post-mortem

When this localization work gets done I want to write up a full post-mortem on the game. Before I forget everything. The bulk of the development is already outlined in the thread here but there's a lot of shit that happened in the weeks before and after launch that might make a good read. Also sales figures.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2013, 10:00:58 PM by dukope » Logged

seagaia
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« Reply #646 on: October 12, 2013, 08:04:56 AM »

 Hand Money Left
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« Reply #647 on: October 14, 2013, 05:17:31 AM »

Wonderful game! Just brilliant idea!
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xenochria
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« Reply #648 on: October 14, 2013, 08:44:09 AM »

God I adore this game. Honestly, it has struck such a chord with me. The aesthetics, the gameplay, it's amazing. Thank you, and I really hope you don't abandon future development on it. I'd love to see more scripted events, and more moral choices. Those are honestly the best parts. I just with the story mode was longer, maybe 1-2 days of normal work days in between the big story events.

Additionally, a 3DS port would be perfect for this game. The booth and line screens combined at the top screen, the desk on the bottom screen. Any thoughts? I bet a iOS port would work too, and I believe you have some iOS game experience too right?

Also a minor thing to ask for (which has probably been mentioned), if you ever get a citation on the last person of the day, the screen fades to black before you get a chance to see it, so you don't know what you did wrong. Can this just stay on the screen for a bit then have the option to "see stats"? after you've reviewed it?

How about a scripted event editor? Where you can choose a particular character to say something who can give you a moral choice, then it is just slipped in to a random day on the story mode. That would be great.

But overall more events, more scenarios, perhaps a port or an event editor would make this amazing game even better.
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« Reply #649 on: October 14, 2013, 02:28:40 PM »

Also, my girlfriend and I have totally made up our own multiplayer version of the game, where we both do Timed Endless mode, clicking start at the exact same time and seeing who gets the most points. Maybe this could be a fully fledged idea for a multiplayer mode? Maybe if you get a few immigrants through/rejected correctly in a row, the opponent gets someone with the most minor of discrepancies to catch them out and reduce their score. Maybe they'll get someone they have to strip search, making their entire time last longer over just one suspect. There are many potential ideas for stuff like that I think. Smiley
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xenochria
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« Reply #650 on: October 15, 2013, 10:17:45 AM »


Post-mortem

When this localization work gets done I want to write up a full post-mortem on the game. Before I forget everything. The bulk of the development is already outlined in the thread here but there's a lot of shit that happened in the weeks before and after launch that might make a good read. Also sales figures.

Also goddamn I would LOVE to read anything else you have on the development of the game. I have read every page of this thread now over the past week and it has been fascinating.
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« Reply #651 on: October 22, 2013, 10:54:26 PM »

Got the game on Steam and finished it with 5-6 endings, including one positive.

I'm impressed not only with the idea of the game, but also and above all with the implementation. Everything is well thought and fits perfectly. While my first thoughts when I heard about the game was "how can that setting be interesting ? Putting stamps on papers, checking names, dates ?" And yet the result is great, because the paper work is wrapped into several layers of interconnected gameplays. Paper work and efficiency impact on the "family" game and vice versa. Same thing for the third layer : the interactions and quest with people on the line and guards. It's great.

Especially the ending (well, the one I got) is very powerful as regards story.

Well done.

EDIT : can't wait to read this postmortem !
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dukope
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« Reply #652 on: November 06, 2013, 12:55:39 AM »

Gonna start posting some postmortem stuff here now.

After The Beta
The last beta (0.5.13) was released in April (?) and had 8 days of gameplay. It feels like a solid demo but nothing beyond that had been implemented. In the time between April and July, I worked to fill out the mechanics and story.

Story
Of all the things that went into the game, the hardest part for me to do, by far, was arranging the overall progression and narrative. During the entire development I collected and implemented small encounters or mechanics. Coming up with these was really fun; spy document handoff, nosy reporter, time bomb defusing, corrupt guard, etc. The task of tying all that together with a logical progression and interesting story was not as fun. I wanted the gameplay to evolve at a good pace but also to motivate each new mechanic with a story element. And with lots of these things to lay out, it's also important to avoid having too many things happen at once that can misdirect or confuse the player.

As an example, there's a secret document hand-off encounter early in the game. You get handed two identical documents and need to keep them straight:



Implementing this was easy but there was no clear place to put it in the game. The event involves a bulletin callout, 2 travelers (the spy and his follower), and 2 documents. It's a pretty heavy event actually because once you read the bulletin, you're on the lookout for the first spy and his follower; it somewhat consumes the player's headspace. This meant that I didn't want it to overlap with any other days where you have an important bulletin message, when you're expecting someone specific, or when you have another document handoff. It finally wound up on the same day you meet Calensk. Now the problem is that as soon as you read the bulletin about a spy coming, this military-looking guy walks up. Naturally you'd think he was the spy. If I had any other choice I would've moved this encounter or Calensk's intro but out of the 31 days there was no other place. I ended up just letting these events overlap but made one small dialog addition to clear up any confusion. When Calensk walks in for the first time, the inspector asks "Are you the spy?", to which he responds "What? No". Ship it.

This is one example but there were lots of cases like this where I had to be very careful with the arrangement. Each event, encounter, mechanic, introduction, etc required coordination with everything else. I started by layings things out on paper but that didn't last long. Eventually I do what I normally do and wrote a tool to help:

 
Full-size

This is the basic story layout tool. Each column is a day and the boxes represent mechanics, rules, news stories, travelers, bulletins, etc. I define the dependencies in a simple text format then load it up here and slide the boxes around to visualize how everything will play out. Some events have multiple boxes spanning several rows and several days. Once everything was set up I could quickly see empty or crowded spaces and tweak things accordingly.

Economy
For the beta release, the game had a very simple economy. I didn't put much thought into it at the time and there were lame ways to exploit your income. For the final game I knew I'd need better planning to put the average player under constant money pressure. Again, this is something I tackled with a custom tool.

 
Full-size animated gif

The days are listed from top to bottom this time. Each row represents one day and has the news stories, processing (T=traveler, P=penalty, D=detain), special encounters (bribes, story events), nighttime messages, and expenses. Each element is a button and allows quickly testing different scenarios by toggling each effect on and off. For example, clicking the [P2] on the first line will simulate getting 2 penalties on day one. That effect will propagate through the entire game to show nighttime earnings, adjusted events, and even when the family would start dying.

This economy simulator was one of my more useful tools made for the game. The stuff I learned with it fed back into the story layout to let me know when it would be good to add a bribery or other money-affecting event. The niece event was laid out this way. I saw a dip below zero on one day and came up with the story for her to appear with her mom's savings as relief.



Stuff That Was Cut
Coming soon...
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xenochria
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« Reply #653 on: November 06, 2013, 11:47:12 AM »

Man that is FASCINATING. I have been checking this topic every day for weeks now hoping for this. Excellent.
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Gabriel Verdon
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« Reply #654 on: November 10, 2013, 09:35:10 AM »

Thank you for taking the time to share this. This is exactly the kind of thing I struggle with so it's encouraging to see how you solved these problems. Really clever stuff!
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gamepopper
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« Reply #655 on: November 10, 2013, 10:04:21 AM »

I love your game, I hope you get more involved with the technical side as well, or is that early on in this Dev log here?
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« Reply #656 on: November 10, 2013, 06:40:05 PM »

Thanks for sharing the post-mortem, dukope. It's been very informative.
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dukope
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« Reply #657 on: November 11, 2013, 04:42:04 AM »

Thanks guys. I'm reaching the limits of my memory and figured I should write it down sooner rather than later.

I love your game, I hope you get more involved with the technical side as well, or is that early on in this Dev log here?

Yeah any postmortem stuff will just cover the last few months when I stopped posting here. Check back through the thread for lots of technical details up until the beta.
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« Reply #658 on: November 11, 2013, 06:14:52 AM »

That's a very interesting peek behind the curtain dukope!
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dukope
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« Reply #659 on: November 11, 2013, 06:24:50 AM »

Stuff That Was Cut
One of the most valuable lessons I learned working in AAA is that nothing is above being cut. Developing (and finishing) a game is just as much about removing things as it is adding them. Cutting stuff out that doesn't add to the experience or when the payoff doesn't match up with the cost of implementation is actually something I enjoy. It keeps me constantly thinking about the core of what makes a game fun or interesting.

Baggage
From the very beginning I envisioned a simple baggage-inspecting mechanic. Basically just like the body scanner but with randomized contents and a gun or two every once in a while. I kept putting off the implementation until eventually it wasn't needed. The game was already fun without it and adding it would've been a sizable task. Instead, I made it a point that baggage is not allowed so it sorta fit well with the narrative.

Booth Shenanigans
The booth screen was supposed to have more going on. The shutter switch is some evidence of that; there were plans to have immigrants pull a gun or otherwise threaten the inspector. When this happened you'd have to close the shutter quickly or pull your own gun or something. Like the baggage though, I held off implementing it long enough to decide that it wasn't necessary. Normally I'd remove any vestiges of a cut feature but in this case I left the shutter switch in. It's a fun little thing to role play and it comes in handy for triggering a hint early in the game. I still get comments about the pointlessness of this switch though. Maybe I should've removed it.

UV Seals
I think these are mentioned briefly in the devlog somewhere. The document seals were supposed to grow more involved. As part of the general progression of complexity, I wanted to add a special UV light in the late game that would be needed to verify a new type of document seal. The idea was to have only a small area of the desk lit by UV light. You'd have to move the document into this area to reveal a second "hidden" image in the seal that needed to match the rulebook. It seemed like a cool way to increase the difficulty and would've been a nice technical effect. Unfortunately and once again, this feature got pushed back far enough that it fell off the edge. Unlike some of the other cut stuff, I held out on this one for a bit longer though. I was ready to add it in until the last few weeks, when I'd laid out enough of the story and progression to find there was no room left for it.

Search Photo Confiscation
This is the latest major cut I can remember. An early assumption was that the game would have both the search mechanic (which left naked photos on your desk) and a way to sell those photos for money. There's even a devlog post where I'm wink wink hinting at this, as if it's not an obvious extension of the search mechanic. This is basic low hanging fruit when dealing with the concepts of security and privacy wrapped up in body scanning. Surely those security personnel are keeping and/or profitting from naked pictures of people. Now you can too! The mechanic worked like this:



I didn't want (too many) documents crowding your desk so I created the confiscation drawer. Search photos would automatically move to your confiscation drawer and stay there until the end of the day. Unsavory characters would come in and offer you 5 credits per photo, which you could drag out of the drawer and give to them. Easy.

The confiscation drawer was a nice solution to the technical problem of having a full day's worth of unique documents loaded in memory. As soon as the person walks out of the booth, the custom photo is unloaded and the confiscation envelope changes to become a generic "closed envelope" with some descriptive text.

Everything here was completely implemented before I started laying out the final days of the game. That's when I noticed a few problems.

  • Why are only passports and search photos confiscatable?
  • Passport confiscation is a critical end-game revelation.
  • Search photo confiscation is a setup for a few obvious (and superfluous) encounters.
  • All the rules about confiscation have to mention both photos and passports.
  • Search photos appear very early in the game but passport confiscation only makes sense near the end.

The big problem for me was a softening of the focus on passport confiscation. Taking someone's passport is a clear escalation on the things-are-getting-serious scale. This sets up the scenario of having your own family's passports taken and leads directly into the end game. Selling someone's bodyscan photo is just another notch on the creeper-security-agent-is-selling-my-naked-pics scale. Under the original scenario, the drawer appeared along with the ability to search, near the start of the game. This meant you could confiscate photos for a long time when suddenly you'd have to start taking passports too. There'd be no obvious UI hint for this change (the drawer was almost always there, just now you should put passports in too). From a mechanics and progression perspective, I found there was a lot more impact if the confiscation drawer was introduced for the purpose of taking passports.

Giving up for-sure features like this can be hard, especially after they're implemented. Whenever you have a bunch of issues pile up related to a specific feature though, it's worth taking a step back and asking yourself what you gain or lose by cutting it.

Ultimately, even though I'd already implemented photo confiscation, it was an easy choice to remove it. Taking it out gave me a better game in every way, leaving the concept of confiscation limited to passports. Probably my favorite cut.

The Overwatcher
If you go back through the devlog, you can find some discussion of how weird it is to get detailed citations for mistakes. As if someone is watching over your shoulder. Why not have that guy check the passports? This bothered me for most of the project and I considered a few different ways to handle it. My original plan was to incorporate this "overwatch" theme deeply into the core gameplay and story.



In the beta, you can see the not-yet-functional overwatch light on the stamp bar. It wasn't going to be explained until much later, but the overwatcher worked in shifts. When this light was on, he was watching; if it turned off, he wasn't. If you wanted to approve someone with a mistake on their passport, you could avoid a citation by waiting until the light went out to quickly stamp/return the documents. With the overwatcher part of the core mechanics like this, he was also going to show up in the story. Sergiu was originally supposed to have some kind of connection with the overwatcher. I hadn't worked out any details but figured there was potential for favors to be exchanged. I also wanted one of the EZIC agents work his way into the overwatch position with your help. If you approved a certain agent, a few days later you'd receive a printout letting you know that EZIC is now in control of the overwatch post and all the rules have changed. That would've created an interesting situation where the printed bulletin and rulebook meant nothing and the player had to work against a different set of secret EZIC commands.

So that was all well and good; lots of potential. I really like this kind of subversion of expectations, where the rules change suddenly or the player is faced with something unexpected and has to change their thinking.

After working through a few scenarios though, I was left overall with a worse game than before. The moment the script flips is all well and cool but it's at the cost of everything before and after. If the overwatcher works in obvious shifts then all the sob story immigrants just become a case of waiting a few seconds for the light to go out. It changes the focus from the interesting stuff to watching for a light to turn off.

After that realization, I considered ditching the light mechanic but keeping the tangible overwatcher. There'd be no way to "cheat" the citations but I could keep the EZIC overwatch-takeover concept and have all the rules change in the late game. Maybe that could've worked with a lot of careful thought but in the end I was left feeling that it weakened a central premise of the game that you're a powerless cog in an uncaring machine. If the overwatcher is a guy that can be so easily reached then maybe the system isn't so overbearing. Unaddressed and untouchable though, it becomes an implicit force outside of any influence. I feel this works better for both the gameplay and the story. In the final game there's only a touch of mystery behind the citations but it's (I hope) quickly accepted as an implicit construct.

Even beyond these two (good) reasons, messing with the citation system subverts the right-or-wrong judgement tied to the core mechanic of finding discrepancies. Once that judgement is abandoned, the discrepancy hunt falls apart completely. That was especially decisive for me since I strongly believe in the importance of gameplay systems in effective interactive media. This cut goes all the way to the top.

Also I removed the overwatch light. People were clicking it like a button.



Stuff That Was Added at the Last Second

Coming soon...
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