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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsPapers, Please [Available 8/8]
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dukope
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« Reply #660 on: November 11, 2013, 07:57:10 PM »

There's more coming but I'm gonna put this here to make previous entries easier to find.


After The Beta
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The last beta (0.5.13) was released in April (?) and had 8 days of gameplay...

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Stuff That Was Cut
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One of the most valuable lessons I learned working in AAA is that nothing is above being cut...

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Mr Speaker
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« Reply #661 on: November 12, 2013, 07:44:37 AM »

Fantastic read! It must have been damn tough pulling the trigger on some really cool-sounding features.
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dukope
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« Reply #662 on: November 18, 2013, 05:19:05 AM »

Fantastic read! It must have been damn tough pulling the trigger on some really cool-sounding features.

I'm at the point now where I actually really like to cut stuff. Like I mentioned, it gets me to concentrate on the core of the game and why it's enjoyable. I feel like the more I chip away, the more refined it becomes.
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dukope
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« Reply #663 on: November 18, 2013, 05:24:23 AM »

Previously...
1 - After The Beta
2 - Stuff That Was Cut


One More Thing That Was Cut
Forgot something...

Obristan Escape Sequence
Long before relase, as a way to announce the final price for Papers Please, I created a simple HTML5 game:


Note: this is a random face sprite, not the player character from the final game

You give this guy your documents and a small bribe equaling the price of the game. Bribe him too little and he denies you; too much and he arrests you; just right and you'll get your entry granted => you figured out how much Papers Please will cost on release.

This was more work than you could really justify for announcing the price of something. That's because this interaction was also intended to be included in the final game. When you and your family escape to Obristan after day 31, you were supposed to play this minigame again while passing through the Obristan checkpoint as an immigrant. You'd go through an interactive sequence of waiting in line, approaching the counter from the other side, giving the inspector your docs, and sweating it. This was a nice "tables have turned" payoff for the entire game.

The downfall here was that it was too much work for just one ending. This price game was done, but the waiting in line, entering the booth, the result screens were all to-do. And it wasn't really interactive anyways. Did I want people to fail at this point, by offering the wrong docs/bribe? How would that be handled? Would they have to play the final day through to try again?

Eeventually, I decided that the best approach for the game endings was a generic system that could be used for everything. The picture-with-text system used in the intro worked great for that and was much easier to implement. I restructured the Obristan immigration sequence using this much simpler system and kinda liked it. It also lined up better with my neutral treatment of the endings. Adding a special minigame just for the Obristan escape ending would've given it extra weight, implying that it was more correct than any of the other day-31 endings; which wasn't the case.



The facial hair is for warmth. This guy is on fire.


Stuff That Was Added at the Last Second
Still coming soon...
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koïnsky
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« Reply #664 on: November 19, 2013, 02:05:57 AM »

Interesting stuff, thanks !

The balancing sheets, especially, did catch my interest. Balancing is one of the things that need a lot of work and attention when making a game, I guess. It's kinda "scary", somehow, when I think about it for my own game.

Good postmortem, don't hesitate to go on.   Hand Fork Left Hand Knife Right
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« Reply #665 on: November 19, 2013, 06:19:29 AM »

I thought Obristan being so easy to immigrate to was a way of showing how ridiculously complicated your own job was. No checks, no questions, it felt like the game was exposing the overly bureaucratic Arstotzka border control checkpoints.
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dukope
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« Reply #666 on: November 19, 2013, 06:41:51 AM »

I thought Obristan being so easy to immigrate to was a way of showing how ridiculously complicated your own job was. No checks, no questions, it felt like the game was exposing the overly bureaucratic Arstotzka border control checkpoints.

Yeah this was a happy result of changing to the simple ending style. The full interactive segment would've been much closer to Arstotzkan-level bureaucracy in order to force the tension. Switching to just image+text gave me the freedom to treat it differently.

I especially like how Obristan doesn't give a shit about reason for entry. It's almost like a complete retrospective commentary on the entire game in just two lines of dialog.
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dukope
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« Reply #667 on: November 19, 2013, 07:10:17 AM »

Previously...
1 - After The Beta
2 - Stuff That Was Cut
3 - One More Thing That Was Cut


Stuff That Was Added at the Last Second
Sometimes when you cut something, a big hole is left behind. Or, after bringing a bunch of different elements together near the end of development you run into stubborn problems you couldn't foresee and that you can't cut your way out of. I hit a few of these. I tried my best to avoid adding things near the end but it still happened. (A lot apparently, this is a long postmortem entry.)

Reason for Denial Stamp
I consider this one of the better late additions. During the beta, a common question would come up: "Do I even need to interrogate a discrepancy?" The answer for the beta is "No." For a long time, the answer for the full game was also "No." There was a similar issue with detention, where it was never required and had no concrete benefit in the beta. I changed that by adding Calensk and giving you an incentive to detain. The interrogations were harder to solve. Very late in the development, I decided that I needed a way to outright require the player to interrogate. That's nice but how?

Let me take you back to an early alpha:

Early alpha denial gating

That's a really old version (Check the bell and computer screen, also dithering), but it had a cool feature. You couldn't deny people until you found something wrong. It was a great way to gate your progress but ultimately felt too gamey so I took it out. Now I needed it back, only gooder.

Something that people (including me) said about the game was that "stamping is fun". I had a general desire to add another stamp somewhere and this ended up being the perfect place. I came up with the REASON FOR DENIAL stamp that appears only after you find and interrogate a discrepancy. If you want to deny somebody, you need a reason. Some nice things:

  • It can be introduced midway through the game.
  • It changes how certain players play (those that never interrogate before denying).
  • It fits in with a nice story element (journalist complaints).
  • It lets players stamp more.
  • It adds more procedural rigamarole.
  • It looks bitchin.



It even has a circuity-look to justify how it can be enabled only after interrogation. Because of circuits.

Additional Rulebook Pages
One of my mantras for the design in Papers Please was "keep it vague". That goes for both the story elements and the gameplay mechanics. I wanted the player to be overwhelmed at first and to have to feel their way through the interface and ruleset. Unfortunately, a common complaint from the beta was that things were too hard to figure out and weren't explained well. I really liked the idea of "winning" a labor lottery and being thrown into a job with no training though, so I was hesitant to fix this. Eventually, in the last few weeks before shipping, I decided to add a ton of pages to the rulebook to centralize what was previously a slew of scattered information.


Detailed info on the Access Permit and its seals added to the rulebook

Previously, new mechanics were introduced in special bulletin pages. To help the player out, I was keeping these instructional pages in the bulletin for a few days after they first appeared. Things started piling up though and the bulletin got pretty bloated as a result. The proper long-term place for this stuff is in the rule book.


Bulletin and rulebook version of the confiscation instructions

Important information is still introduced in the bulletin but it also gets a place in the rulebook and disappears from the bulletin on the next day. Doing it this way unified enough instructional material that I could actually be more vague in other areas. A lot of work near the end of the project but worth it.

31st Day
Me, right after the beta: "The game will be 30 days." Later, I put in a supervisor encounter (Dimitri) every ten days and it was settled: the game would end on the 30th day after the last talk with your supervisor. Perfect.

When it came to actually lay out the story though, it was obvious that not everything would fit in 30 days. The biggest problem was too many events near the end game that required exclusivity.



In particular, the final story pressure deals with illegally confiscating Obristan passports for your own family. Due to other events, the earliest I could introduce this pressure was on day 29. If the game is 30 days, that only gives you 2 days to get 5 passports; not enough.

One option was to cut more stuff to make it fit. But then I'd be removing completely finished encounters or events just to get a nice round number of days. Dumb reason so I extended everything by one day and the endgame events got just enough space to spread out well.

Not Completely Incompetent Guards
This is one of those things that took a rare moment of clarity to even notice. The guards in Arstotzka can't aim for shit. They missed every single time throughout the entire game, 8 attacks in all. This actually worked well with my desire to make the player responsible for stopping these attacks on their own with the sniper rifle. But really it makes no sense. These guys can't be that bad.

Honestly I didn't even consider this until coming back to tweak a terrorist attack after working on something else for a while. One of the benefits of doing code, design, art, music, and sound for a game is you often get a fresh look at old work. After noticing it, I quickly modified a few of the attacks to actually end with a guard stopping the terrorist(s). This was a case where I had to put game mechanics in the back seat just to keep the overall logic reasonable.


All that training, all those bullets

Lots of Endings
Once the image+text style from the intro was recycled for the endings I had a good system for adding endings easily. This had a bigger effect than I expected. Now it made more sense production-wise to allow the player to do more things with more consequences. Instead of carrying player decisions through the entire game I could terminate things early with an ending. Or decisions that did carry through could have their own unique variation of a later ending. It sounds like a cheap trick but honestly the alternative was to not have these decision points at all.

I also felt like the endings didn't need a huge payoff. At least, not one that I could produce. Like most other things in the game, they're succinct and a little vague.

One thing that I think made these simplistic ending sequences more satisfying was the added music. Most of the gameplay takes place in near silence. There's only one song that plays during the title and night screens. By having two more songs just for the ending sequences the tone changes enough that it feels like more of a big deal than it objectively is.



Should be out soon.


Testing
Coming soon...
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mike_w
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« Reply #668 on: November 20, 2013, 05:26:51 PM »

I just wanted to say thanks for writing all this stuff up. It's been super interesting to read. Your game was easily one of my favorites of the year!
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« Reply #669 on: November 24, 2013, 12:03:04 PM »

I loved the concept and the mood, but I've to admit the hurry annoyed me, decisions have to be made too quickly, I know it's considered but it still made me enjoyed less the game.
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« Reply #670 on: December 02, 2013, 02:49:25 AM »

Super hot stuff; keep these coming.
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« Reply #671 on: December 02, 2013, 04:39:05 AM »

Just watched the documentary Video Games Changed The World on BBC 4. You got a fairly big mention near the end of the show even before they started talking about the indie scene.
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« Reply #672 on: December 02, 2013, 09:17:40 AM »

It was on Channel 4 on Friday, even better!
2 hour feature on the history of games, congrats Dukope Smiley
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« Reply #673 on: December 10, 2013, 09:22:25 PM »



look at the number one slot (this guy pretty popular on youtube) just thought you would like too see that people really enjoy your game
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« Reply #674 on: December 10, 2013, 11:38:51 PM »

Just watched the documentary Video Games Changed The World on BBC 4. You got a fairly big mention near the end of the show even before they started talking about the indie scene.


look at the number one slot (this guy pretty popular on youtube) just thought you would like too see that people really enjoy your game

This is insane. First, the Channel 4 thing, which is really amazing. Then, nominations for best Indie and best PC game at the VGX. It's also in the running for best PC game at GameSpot. Nerd Cubed picked it as his GOTY, saying it was a "perfect game". With support from Russian fans, Papers Please made it to round 2 of the Escapist's GOTY brackets, where everything else is AAA. I've been speechless for days.

During this flurry, I've mostly kept my head down with work on the localizations. There's more postmortem stuff coming, I just gotta find the time to post it!
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« Reply #675 on: December 11, 2013, 06:22:06 AM »

So happy for you! I've been following this game for ages and played the initial free demo... Who would have thought it. Congrats again Smiley
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« Reply #676 on: December 14, 2013, 07:05:40 AM »





Nerdcubed, a relatively popular youtuber, released his top ten games of 2013 recently. Papers, Please, was in the first place. He called it a "perfect game", of which only portal and shadow of the colossus had the honor of being called before. Good job.
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« Reply #677 on: December 25, 2013, 11:59:30 AM »

http://www.giantbomb.com/articles/dean-evans-top-10-games-of-2013/1100-4816/

relevant
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« Reply #678 on: December 25, 2013, 12:43:13 PM »

Question:

Quote
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.

In the end you have removed all those ideas. So how did you deal with it after that?
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« Reply #679 on: December 26, 2013, 10:47:32 PM »

So I just wanted to thank you Dukope... this thread was a really awesome read (just read it pretty much all the way through in a night lol) and I had to say you're amazing, please keep making games and writing devlogs!
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