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tsameti
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« on: October 11, 2010, 11:52:55 AM »

Son, Stranger-Native is a Flash based narrative game intended for Web distribution.

This has been a dream project of mine for a long time and I'm ecstatic to finally be getting on top of it.

The goal of the project is to create incremental slivers of an RPG (which will pull away from genre conventions and mechanics rapidly if the project continues past step one). The first increment would be comprised of approximately two minutes of content, heavily dialogue and character driven.

I am building the game by sticking to a rapid iteration philosophy. The game should always be working/usable in any state, even if it isn't playable yet. You can find a current build right here:
http://www.tsameti.com/tr_game.html

What may very well end up a Beirut (beer-pong )mini-game: http://www.tsameti.com/workingPong.swf

I am currently doing art myself, though I worry I'm not doing the project justice.


These are some examples of the direction I'm currently taking the style, but I believe I'll swing towards a less cartoony look as I continue.

The road to success is in strictly limiting the scope of the project.

The game itself represents a deep commitment to approaching serious topics in game narrative, and less conventional storytelling mechanics. I intend to take the player out of their comfort zones and expose them to fictional cultures and peoples who serve as reflections, allusions, and amalgamations of real world cultures, as well as addressing themes of religious and inter-cultural conflicts that are pertinent to a modern audience.

To sum up my mission statement:

This is not a story about the Great War. This is not a story about a prophecy.
There is no apocalypse to threaten the World. There is no chosen one to stop it.
This is not a high epic, it is a little story... about a little country... and its Maybe War.
If this is a story about darkness, let it only be the darkness in our own hearts.
If this is a story about evil, let it only be the evil that we have always been capable of,
    since we have from our beginning...
    and we will to our end...
« Last Edit: February 12, 2011, 09:19:29 PM by tsameti » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2010, 12:49:06 PM »

I absolutely love the art style in the first pic. It's completely cartoony, but somehow real, and detail oriented... Can't really describe how much this picture says to me... somehow its just awesome. I digress... This seems like an excellent idea, and I can't wait to try something complete Smiley

Good luck!
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2010, 02:09:06 PM »

I don't know how it shows up on your screen, but on my laptop, the middle fellow's skin is too dark to be able to make out his features (which are drawn in black).

Good luck, and have fun developing.
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2010, 05:40:27 AM »

Thank you guys. I might try to up the contrast just a smidge on Muaja, but he's going to remain fairly dark and so, might I add, will be the majority of other characters. Once I smooth out the highlights on his face, I think it will be much less of an issue.

Update: I've got collision detection working.

You'll notice that you are able to control the green dot around the screen once the two characters are finished talking. You can ran ram into the brown dot, or if you approach him and hit 'enter' you can initiate a new conversation.

Going to add a stationary state for immovable objects, and an rudimentary AI stack for npc objects. I'm only going to implement 'follow' and 'standat' for now.

Then bunker down and work on assets.

Then the in-game menu / encyclopedia. Then scriptedActions and a gameover placeholder for sceneChanges/loads.

Exciting. Hm, when do I actually get to start writing? Lol.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2010, 05:47:31 AM by tsameti » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2010, 09:58:34 AM »

Good news, I've got the framework for the AI working.
Very basic behaviors are working, you can see the follow behavior in effect in the current build. Unfortunately multiple behaviors don't quite mix well yet, but I've got some ideas how to get that fixed.

I've also got started on the sprites and embedding fonts. I'm going to focus on assets for a while, then get back to working on menus

Edit: it occurs to me that I have to worry about tweening soon. Flash isn't happy with sprites moving around willy nilly.
The other thing is bumping. The player should have a bump state which temporarily removes or diminishes your control after you run into something.
Going to have to do and idle state, a walk cycle, and a run cycle for both characters.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2010, 10:08:52 AM by tsameti » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2010, 02:04:11 PM »

Sprite work.

Got a new piss-bush and a 3/4 of my first draft of one direction's walk cycle.
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2010, 02:47:02 PM »

I apparently added a voice over at one point, which was pretty annoying. Cut it out, put in a temporary title screen.

This leaves me at the doorstep of what I think may very well be the hardest conceptual hurdle I'm facing. Implementing the actual gamesystem is going to be a huge B.

You see, there's no combat in the game. Your actions will unlock additional dialogue options, faction loyalty, and morality alignment. The system needs to be deliberate, strategic, and communicate a sense of consequence.

My best idea at the moment is to have each character possess a series of 'locks' which represent their reservations with being forward with you. Choosing which locks to tackle can and must preclude other options.

But is that enough? Even if I abstract the game's decision making into more primal elements, it doesn't seems much like there's a give and take.


What if I do this:

actor contains
  locktier contains
    sublocks contain
      scriptElements

And your interaction with a locktier is confined to a single 'round', where you only have a certain number of tokens to assign to hitting the sublocks.

As you navigate into deeper locktiers, it is no longer possible to complete the full set of sublocks without utilizing advanced actions, actions which globally affect your reputation and preclude you from opening certain other actor's locktiers.

Huh... maybe this one is a winner...
« Last Edit: October 17, 2010, 02:57:53 PM by tsameti » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 01:56:48 PM »

Hrmm and haww, man, that went mostly over my head but if it works the way I think it does, that's a nice and interesting alternative to the usual irritating dialogue/NPC interaction.
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real art looks like the mona lisa or a halo poster and is about being old or having your wife die and sometimes the level goes in reverse
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« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2010, 12:21:17 PM »

Current update: No new graphical assets, but I'm hard at work fleshing out the conversation mechanic. I'm not doing anything to make it pretty yet, so bear with me.

This is what I've got so far: www.tsameti.com/lockTierTest.swf

Let me explain what you're seeing: when you initiate a conversation, you talk for a bit until the other person or 'actor' reveals their lockTiers.

LockTiers are pretty much exactly analogous to the selectable conversation options most of us are familiar with. So the lockTier Small Talk should be understood as making small talk with the other person. It is a direction the conversation can go, if you wish.

However, rather than being static, each lockTier is composed of a number of smaller elements. Each element, or 'sublock' is associated with certain moods and represents a different kind of relationship you share with the person you're talking to. If you want to be a funny guy, you can develop a lighthearted relationship with the person by going for certain subLocks. But eventually, since you haven't developed other aspects of the relationship, you find that certain sublocks, and even whole lockTiers are no longer accessible to you.

Once unlocked, a lockTier can be revisited but not unlocked again. I'm working on the unlocking part right now.


Problem numero UNO: No conflict element yet. Ideally, you're not only making decisions but the other person is trying to manipulate the relationship too. I actually have no idea how that would even look like, so I'm going to avoid the problem entirely for now. It could be that it will be satisfactory just at the start to make the game's difficulty dealing with increasingly complicated puzzle-like sublocks.
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2010, 02:42:37 PM »

What is the LockTier System?
   The narrative experience of gaming is a tough bird to quantify. On one hand, a developer has this exceptional opportunity; games by their nature are capable of engaging the audience in a manner which is in many ways more effectively immersive than static media. On the other hand, the developer is tasked with anticipating the desires and expectations of their players. In many ways a game system is a compact with the player. Fulfilling the compact leads to deeper immersion and better player/avatar synchronization of Agency, while failing to live up the the compact pulls the player right out of their Zen.  Those poor souls responsible for 'Role Playing' projects are deepest in the shit, as they are tasked with creating a world for the player in which the expectation for Agency is extremely high.
   The LockTier system proposes the following compact with the player: they do not inhabit the person of the main character, but instead act as the director/editor of the story. Their Agency is the power to choose pace, mood, focus, and theme within the confines of the existing setting and story. In order to do this, the LockTier system provides to the player sensible and predictable abstractions of mood and virtue so that the player's decisions never need to be arbitrary, but also so they will not be put off when a character behaves in a way the player might not expect them to.
  

   So the features of the system will be:
Branching conversations with puzzle-like decisions which determine the direction and result of your dialogues.
Exclusivity in relationship building. The decisions you make can and must exclude other choices.
Building a scene from an XML file. Treats the file as if it's a screenplay.

Plenty of other stuff I want to add to it. Ideally the game system will be as extensible as possible, so I might be able to open source the engine and build stories extremely rapidly by just throwing together new assets and an XML script.



November 5th
To Do:
Preloader and list of controls.
Locktier interface visual cleanup
Pause Menu Shell
Game End/Over condition
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 02:28:57 PM by tsameti » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2010, 02:22:58 PM »

So, a common thread that comes up when people try the new builds of the game seems to be that it's unclear what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how you're supposed to play.

I'm not surprised. I haven't done much explaining yet. But what that means is that I feel like I need to go ahead and start prioritizing a tutorial. I've decided to split it off from the main game as a short, self-contained unit. That way I can really mess with the fourth wall aggressively without worrying about impacting the story. As an exercise in egomania, I'm going to put myself in the tutorial. Then friends. It'll be fun.

Tutorial ideas to start mocking up the tone:
http://img413.imageshack.us/img413/4499/tutorialme02.png
http://img508.imageshack.us/img508/8263/tutorialmaybes.png

I also need to start hashing out what my in-game encyclopedia looks like. I think it's a fairly critical feature, so that folks who are excited about learning more about the game-world are always earning cool little snippets that they can read at their own leisure.
http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/1237/encyclomockup.png

Other crucial things: I need to totally redo my intro to be much more cinematic and interesting. Part of that may mean learning how to handle Adobe After Effects and a couple of other things. Right now it's just text on a parchment background, and there's nothing exciting about it.

Actor blocking is going to be crucial. I've really got to indicate more clearly who's talking, and start on some graphical assets to liven up my actors' body language a little.

Anywho:
The final, final build of the Son,Stranger Demo must include the following:
80% of Muaja's dialogue trees and tiers. 2-3 minutes content total.
Cleaner, more effective interfaces
Sparse but functional Encyclopedia
Friend screen to inspect your relationships (all one of them Smiley )
A short tutorial.
A way to quit or exit the game.
Music.


Some Screenshots of a more recent build:

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« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2010, 02:53:33 PM »

Wow, an exhausting process.

I got sidelined making actor 'blocking' a little more functional. It's now possible make actors display emotions or actions in conversations as appropriate. I say 'possible' because I haven't created much in the way of assets to show off the feature. (I've got a guy throwing up, hooray me) The dialogues also now keep track of who's speaking. Of course, that's revealed a new and stupid problem. I need to implement a low overhead way for Characters to possess 'aliases' so that they can be referred to by different names at different points in time.

Right now I'm using a hacky solution, where if I want to use an alternate name, I just pass an invalid actor ID and it pops out as text instead of pulling the actor_name string. Basically just me being lazy. Of course, that means the actor speaking doesn't get pinged to know he's talking and stands there like a mute idiot.

I'm also getting close to a functional shell of a pause menu. It really isn't hard stuff, I just have to plan ahead of time to make sure that my data structures are designed intelligently to avoid headaches down the road. Once I get the encyclopedia, the game quit, and the friends list working, then tackle some GUI usability issues, I'll feel comfortable moving on to cobble together a tutorial and start posting in Feedback.


The most exhausting part about this process is that most of the work I'm putting into this project is just to produce a vehicle for telling a rather sparse short story, in fact, a piece of a short story. I'd like to start asking for help, but I keep thinking I'm not at the point to start asking yet.


What will Son, Stranger be if I stop when the demo is done? It won't be much of a game, that's for sure. I guess it will be two friends having a frank discussion about adulthood in uncertain times. It'll be about the fear and excitement for new things, and good things remembered. It will be the thinnest sliver of a story you land in the middle of, and aren't promised the conclusion of.
But maybe that will be enough, I hope it will be.


So the music is a placeholder, but it belongs to a Newgrounds artist. I need desperately to credit him but I haven't gotten the credits screen working yet.
Edit: the guy goes by the handle 'Ranter' and his Ngrounds page is http://ranter.newgrounds.com/ and the song is 'Golden Age'
I may need to try and contact him before long.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2010, 05:55:44 PM by tsameti » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2010, 03:18:44 AM »

Thank you guys. I might try to up the contrast just a smidge on Muaja, but he's going to remain fairly dark and so, might I add, will be the majority of other characters. Once I smooth out the highlights on his face, I think it will be much less of an issue.

Add a second light source, which puts a few weak (maybe blueish?) highlights on the opposite side of his facial features, and it might really help with this without having to make his skin tone brighter.
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2011, 03:45:39 PM »


Alcohol is terrible, wonderful stuff, folks.

So, I've been sidelined like hell by the holidays but I'm still at it. My big project for the moment is the unification of my menu system, the short term goal of which is to get a poor man's Mass Effect/DragonAge style encyclopedia going. The long term goal is to leave room for any and all other ungodly menus I'd decide to implement.

There's no way in heck I'm going to be able to present by Jan 13th MagFest. Shame. I'll be dragging my laptop anyway, I can at least get the Encyclopedia up, and clean up the dialogue system a touch so I can show 'Son, Stranger' around.


I'm so damn focused on coding everything that I haven't touched much in the way of images for some time. Bear with me, I'll get to it.
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« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2011, 02:23:13 PM »

So, my encyclopedia code took me way too long, mostly because I'm trying to create one singular and extensible menu system.



Why is that important, you ask? Because Son, Stranger-Native isn't just a game, it's intended to be a game engine. That's right, when I'm done you'll be able to grab it up, write a screenplay xml file and give it an asset swf, and you'll be able to play your own short-story game.

Though, as it looks right now I'm not going to have a huge number of features for you. I just need to get done.


PS: Also, I have GOT to pick a new font.
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« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2011, 03:14:14 PM »

wow WOW  Shocked I didn't see that game before, how I miss it?
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« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2012, 09:16:32 AM »

Sweet god, I got sidetracked. But I'm coming back to Son, Stranger.


I'm going to focus on the basics.
Menu cleanup
Character dialogue sprites
Sprite run cycles
End condition

But mostly I want to migrate Son Stranger from Adobe Flash dependancy to straight AS3 to be more in line with Flixel or FlashPunk.
I don't want people held back by a proprietary software.

I also am considering setting up a Kickstart project, with the goal of open sourcing the engine I am working on, as my slowdown has primarily been financial. We'll see. I'll handle that through channels other than Tig though.
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« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2012, 04:54:06 PM »

Looking for a little advice, I'll cross post in the design forum. I need to start thinking about loading assets more intelligently.

My thought is that I'm going to set the game up to read in an asset list from the main script at loading. For my own convenience I'll code it to take not only swf files with asset classes already set up, but cobble together sprites from bitmaps too.

My question is thus: is there any way to load new assets at runtime? That is to say, my intention is to allow scene changes to trigger a new load screen where the Flash frees up old assets and loads in new ones. Everything I've read up to this point seems to suggest that this is not reasonable to accomplish. Anyway, if you have any advice.

Meantime, I'm just trying to migrate away from .fla .
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