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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsParty Animals! - A Deceptively Cute Political Strategy Game (PC)
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Author Topic: Party Animals! - A Deceptively Cute Political Strategy Game (PC)  (Read 16945 times)
ryansumo
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« on: January 21, 2014, 06:42:39 AM »


What is Party Animals?

Party Animals is an adorable political satire and strategy game about a fictional tropical island that's currently in the grips of election season. You play the role of a quiet mouse bureaucrat who is tired of being a rubber stamp and decides to run for president and shake things up! On your journey to the Kapitolyo you will raise campaign funds, conduct political sorties, make backroom deals with onerous owls, and generally test the limits of how far you're willing to go in order to become El Presidente.

Gameplay


In terms of gameplay, I'd describe what we're aiming for as a mix between Tropico for theme and a much simplified Nobunaga's Ambition for game mechanics. There will be two parts to the basic gameplay. One is the strategy part which is where you marshal your forces and plot out the districts in which you want to campaign your way to the presidency. Each district has its own personality and concerns, which help the player to decide which ones will respond most to campaign sorties.


Each district also has a Kapitan that represents the Kingmaker in that district. If you can sway the Kapitan to your side you will garner people's votes. You do that by doing the Kapitans favors. There is a risk/reward to this though. The Kapitans will not always ask for things that are technically legal, so it's up to the player to decide whether or not they're comfortable dealing with the Kapitans. The more dodgy things the player gets into, the more control the Kapitan has over the player, and the more likely a news reporter will find out about the players' bad behavior.

OMGifs!

To celebrate our inclusion into the latest Tigsource devlog magazine, here are some GIFs of the prototype I showed off in Bitsummit.  I put this off because I was worried that our game wasn't actiony enough to warrant having GIFs, but anyway here they are!

This is the basic sortie, where you match voter's concerns to the issues you talk about.  In this case, they're interested in employment but not in birth control.

If you're losing their attention, bring in the entertainers!

Or if you're feeling cheap, call in some goons to scare them back to the pulpit.

This is all very much in pre-Alpha and will likely change in the near future, but I suppose that's the point of devlogs eh?

Who is making this?

My name is Ryan Sumo, I was the artist for Spacechem and currently the artist for Prison Architect.  Last year I co-released a game called Elevator Joe with my friend Erick from Kuyi Mobile.  It flopped.  So this year I’m trying to hit the indie PC market instead, and hoping I’ll find more favor there.  I will be doing design and art for the game.

Julius Cebreros  is a former game developer for Anino Games and an all around Avant Garde type programmer. He made a nifty many-vs-one online multiplayer game called Peasants Rebellion II, which has garnered some acclaim (sadly he’s taken down the actual game).  He will be helping me with design and also doing all the programming work.

We're hoping that putting up this devlog will light a fire under our asses and also get us some great feedback from the community!

For some organized information you can check out our press kit!
« Last Edit: May 06, 2014, 07:22:48 PM by ryansumo » Logged

ryansumo
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2014, 06:49:38 AM »

We finally decided on a game flow for Party Animals. This time we have something more complex than just answering multiple choice questions every turn.

Note: Answering the same multiple choice question every turn is bad game design.

Now that we have a rough idea on how the game is going to work each turn, the next step in the game dev process is for me, the programmer, to design how it is going to be implemented.

The game is a turn based 2-player game so I came up with a classic solution:

Finite State Machines (FSM)

"State machines" is a useful world modeling concept from computer science. Here's what Wikipedia says about it. The key concepts here are 1) a machine has a finite set of states 2) the machine is in one of those states at any given time 3) the machine changes to another state through a transition.

In games, screen management is a common example. One screen shows you the Main Menu screen, then depending on the user input in that state you can either transition to a Settings screen or a New Game screen, New Game screen transitions to a High Score screen or a Game Over screen and so on. It's a neat way to structure your code; everything a state does is contained inside one code block and interaction with other screens are done through transitions.

So how does that apply to the game?


I write my codes on paper like a hipster do

In the game, the player turn cycle is an FSM. A player starts in the My Turn state -- in it, his avatar is shown and his UI is reactivated. If the player selects to move his avatar to a district, the game transitions into the Move state -- the avatar is shown moving to the desired location. Since the Move state doesn't rely on user input, it can immediately transition into the End Turn state once the animations are done. In the End Turn state, we can decide to show more effects, animate the avatar to "sit" etc. (This is just an example, I ended up with plenty of states for the game.)

What's important is that these states are contained in one block of code -- a class, or a function. You want to have draw confetti when a turn is done? Fine, let's add that in the End Turn state. You want to have a minigame that determines if a player can move to the location or not? Write a MiniGame state that transitions to the Move or Stay state depending on the result. We can even assign a "controller" into each state for it to differentiate between a human or a computer AI taking a turn.

Am I over-engineering this? That's what I thought at first when I was sketching down the design on paper. But after I coded it and was amazed at how easily the pieces seem to snap together with the entire game, I imaginarily thanked my professor for not being boring back in Computer Science school.
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ryansumo
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2014, 06:54:54 AM »

Even the best artists (and I don't claim to be one of them) find that fresh eyes are useful when looking at their work.  We can get so focused in on an artwork and so used to how it looks that we find it difficult to disengage and see what we could do better.  So when I started working on the map again after the gamejolt contest I decided to put it up on tigsource to get some feedback on it.

This is the map as it appears in our gamejolt entry:



So generally speaking, people liked the look of it, though there were some comments on the color palette:

The rainbow sail is a unique palette and seems out of place.

The purple squares are competing with the buildings.  If the purple grid pattern was darker, the buildings would pop.

Also a comment on the placement of some of the trees:

The regions are delineated but the parts are mixed together.  Palm trees growing with deciduous/hardwood (sp?) and the same trees on both coasts.


The placement of trees was not really well thought out. I just figured that on an island this small, trees would grow in all sorts of places ( we don't quite have the same distinction of trees and seasons in the Philippines).  But I realized that the placement of trees wasn't the real issue, it was that some of the districts lacked a sense of place.  Except for the districts with large places like the kapitolyo and the churches, it was true that the districts did not seem very distinct from each other, so I set out to rectify that with my next iteration:



There were comments that were appreciative of the angular style that I had used, so to amp that up I replaced the gradients in the old coastline with more hard edged graphics.  I added elements like the mine in the upper right corner to give a sense of place to the specific districts.  I also removed the "outer glow" that I used on some of the landmarks.  I initially did that in order to make them stand out, but now I'm thinking they stand out enough just being flat on the map, and it looks much more unified that way. Not sure if I'll stick to this but I like it so far.  People liked the changes, but there were still a few more suggestions:

The black lines around the purple squares creates a lot of contrast and pops.  The government buildings recede back when next to these purple squares, which may not be what you want.

Those black lines are supposed to be roads, and the contrast was intentional because I wanted the buildings to pop in the way the commenter mentioned. But this is a case of a single aspect of the whole standing out too much, for no real good reason.  By simply removing the roads I made the map look much more unified:



This is not the final map by any means, and it will go through numerous changes as the game is developed. But hopefully this gives you an interesting look at how feedback can help you create better artwork!
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ephoete
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2014, 01:42:30 PM »

Indeed very nice choice for the color palette. So in a nutshell this is kind of an exotic sequel of the Animals Farm from Orwell?! That does sound like a damn cool idea.
Looking forward to additional screenshots, it still feels a bit too abstract regarding the game play in my head so far.
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ryansumo
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 04:31:49 PM »

Thanks! My first bit of useful feedback, in which I learn I am useless at providing descriptions of our game!

In terms of gameplay, I'd describe what we're aiming for as a mix between Tropico for theme and a much simplified Nobunaga's Ambition for game mechanics.  Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what we're shooting for. Smiley
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ryansumo
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2014, 06:04:03 PM »

One of the many reasons we wanted to develop party animals was the lack of nuanced political criticism in the Philippines.  While we can be vocal critics of our government, we understand that running a democratic government is hard work.  And yet the majority of internet critics seem to think that politics is easy.  Politicians should simply "do the right thing" and follow the "will of the people".

We don't think it's that easy, and we want to use gameplay to show just how murky things can become on the way to the Kapitolyo.  Party Animals is set during the campaign season in a fictitious animal world.  You play the role of an idealistic mouse that wants to change the way her province is run.  The ultimate goal of the game is to become elected mayor(governor?). To do that the player must run a campaign around the province, holding campaign sorties against their opponent.  As they travel across the province they will come into contact with different groups seeking the player's support for their different advocacies and businesses.  As in the real world, you cannot say yes to everyone, so the player will be forced to make decisions that will affect their campaign for better or worse.


Like Julius, I am a self hating hipster that designs on paper

A political game like that would be interesting enough in itself, but we've added a new wrinkle to challenge players even more.  Remember what I said earlier about people's expectation that their politicians simply "do the right thing"?  We question how simple that really is, so I added a mechanic called the morality meter to the game as another measure of success.  So for example, in some districts a smear campaign will work better than positive propaganda in gaining votes.  But running a smear campaign is certainly not "doing the right thing" so the player will be penalized with a loss of morality points if they choose to do it anyway.  The player can ultimately win a pure political victory, a pure moral victory, or something in between, but very rarely (if at all) both.  In this way I hope that every decision the player makes causes them to question themselves and what they are willing to do in order to win.  By the end of the game they will ideally have a better understanding of the perils of entering politics, but more importantly a better understanding of themselves.

The morality meter may be difficult to implement properly in the game, but since the game is not just about winning, but questioning what it takes to win, it is central to the game's design.  We may have to change how it works exactly (or even if we should make it visible at all) in order to get a better balance or fun factor in the game, but I'm sure we'll figure it out down the road.
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2014, 06:48:11 PM »

Wow great concept! I like the idea of games with a greater purpose that manage to also still be good, fun games. Hope you guys pull it off!

The one change I would make based on reading your design so far would be to remove the morality meter (or at least its visibility). I think attributes like morality and ethics, which are impossible to quantify in the real world, should work similarly in games. The player's conscience should penalise them, rather than discrete, obvious repercussions from within the game.
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ryansumo
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2014, 07:02:14 PM »

Yeah we are leaning towards that.  Additionally by having the morality meter present I worry that it immediately makes the game just plain less fun to play.
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2014, 08:39:24 PM »




Today I'd like to introduce you to our main characters.  So far they are nameless, but they have underlying motivations that have helped shaped them as characters, which will continue to build on as development progresses.

Mousey

Our central character, named "Mousey" by Julius, is a former government bureaucrat who wants to make a difference.  Why a mouse? Aside from being adorable, mice are often used in metaphors as being meek or silent.  This is a mouse who has worked silently for most of her (or his) career and is finally just fed up with how inefficient the current government is.  So now she is running for mayor on a platform of change.  She is idealistic, but also pragmatic.  Having worked in government for many years she understand that politics is compromise.  Just how far she is willing to compromise is one of the central themes of the game.

You'll notice that compared to the other two characters Mousey isn't really wearing any significant clothing.  This was intentional.  Being the player's avatar, we wanted to let the player project themselves onto Mousey and not necessarily try to conform to her characteristics.  We also wanted to let the player choose Mousey's gender.  In this image Mousey is male (although oddly I have been referring to him as her), but if the player chooses female the bow tie is doffed and a ribbon is put on to signify that she's female.  We considered adding a 3rd gender but could not figure out where to put the bowtie.  Ultimately people probably lean towards one gender anyway so hopefully they don't mind picking the one they feel most affinity to.

Croc

The Filipino word for crocodile is buwaya, which has a long history of being used as an idiom for people who are corrupt, specifically politicians.  It made sense that Croc is our incumbent mayor, part of a political dynasty that has held sway over the province for decades.  Croc and his family aren't all bad though.  The original Croc was an excellent mayor and provided good social services for his constituents while finding ways to boost the local economy.  As with any hereditary position though, there will be good eggs and bad eggs (literally, since they hatch from eggs).

This current generation Croc continues the pro-business tradition of his predecessors, however his reliance on the market to solve social ills means that a lot of social services are lacking funding.  The businesses that he supports are also mostly owned by family and friends, meaning that while there is economic growth, it's not as inclusive as it could be.  Having access to the government purse makes Croc a very difficult opponent, since he can very easily sway a vote his way by strategic spending.


Here is Quentin Tarantino looking very pleased to be wearing a barong.

One last thing about Croc that non-Filipinos might find interesting is his barong tagalog. The barong tagalog is the traditional men's wear of the Philippines.  Men wear them to almost all formal occasions like weddings, baptisms, etc. 

Pig

Pig is the poor boy that made good.  A farmboy with the voice of an angel, Pig has had a successful career as a pop star and noontime variety show host.  Pig has a good heart, and likes to give away a lot of stuff to his poor fanbase during his shows.  He is vaguely patterned after a lot of different Filipino celebrities.  His choice of clothing is not specific to a Filipino celebrity, but we wanted to give him that "faded rock star" look.


One of our influences for pig, who we will not name because lawsuits.

Pig wants to give back to his community, which is why he is running for mayor.  Cynics would say that he is merely aware that his showbiz career is almost over, and he's using his fame and fortune for one last push towards relevance, but we withhold judgement.  It's obvious that pig cares very much for the plight of the poor, but unfortunately his economic policy is to throw as much money at them as he can.  He runs on a populist pro-poor and anti-rich campaign, which is ironic considering he has multiple estates and fancy sports cars in the capital city.

That's all for now.  There are many more characters under development who will play an important role in the game, but as of now they are still being formed in our minds.  In the next couple of weeks I'll probably have some design notes and Julius will blog some more about his programming methods for the game.
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ryansumo
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2014, 06:52:47 PM »

It's been a long time since our last update, but that's jsut because we've been crunching and hoping to pull off a playable build in time for Bitummit!  We failed!  But. We gained some knowledge in return.  One of which is there are many drawbacks to using a cutting edge hipster engine like LoomSDK , which Julius will expound on...

The game is being developed on a bleeding-edge game engine called LoomSDK. There are a lot of common sense reasons why you shouldn't do this on a real world project but let's just say my "I'm hipster" card trumps all that.


So hipster!

1. Manage expectations

One of LoomSDK's main selling point is its rapid deploy/live reload workflow. Connect all your device on one machine, change your code and it is automatically rebuilt to all of them.

This works for the most part -- if you are prototyping art, asset changes magically appear in realtime. But if you are changing code, everything has to be recompiled and reloaded. Sure, it's automated but still takes time and leads to an app restart. This is understandably a hard problem to solve; hardware and networking constraints make realtime editing impossible.

So no, you can't type 'hero.speed = 10' in the middle of the game and instantly see hero move faster. You have to wait for it to compile and restart. (Maybe I can put level editing stuff like this on a txt file and bind it. Not sure, I have yet to try it.)

2. There will be bugs

Loom is a work in progress and it's being constantly updated. Working on the bleeding-edge means you get to encounter weird bugs that are easily solved by updating.

I had a memory leak bug where the profiler keeps telling me that I am making too many vectors. Which is weird because Party Animals is a board game.

"The garbage collector is not doing its job, what do I do?"
"loom sdk use latest --firehose"
*wait for download to finish*
*recompile*
*live happily ever after*


"On the shoulder of giants, bitches!"

Not every bug is solvable by updating though. Sometimes you get to be the lucky guy to discover it.

3. File bug reports

Rule: everyone working on an actively evolving piece of software should be prepared to file bug reports.

I recently reported a minor bug that I'm sure was an easy fix for the developers. It felt good. Like being a good neighbor. It's like telling your neighbor about the faulty wiring you saw in their house.

BTW, feature requests aren't bug reports. Loom, the SDK, is open source so you can fork and add whatever you want. That is, if you are capable of doing it yourself. If not, then tough luck, the core developers will file that in their todo list and move on finishing features in the current roadmap.

4. Some things just won't work

I have spent a day's worth of meticulously doing every possible combination of steps to get Party Animals distributable on Testflight. Revoke certificates. Delete/create provisions. Create a fresh project.


I even tried HockeyApp! Sad

This is excruciating because none of this involves actual programming. Just an awful amount of time waiting for the upload/download to finish and reading boring Apple documentations in between.

I almost tried exporting to Xcode until I realize I might need to downgrade to 4.3 for this to work.

I asked for help in the forums, but they said their still working on the issue. Not being able to use Testflight is a major inconvenience and I hope they resolve this soon enough.

For now, I'm considering the tradeoff between porting Party Animals to a different engine or sticking to Loom and just wait for the patch.

Or maybe I should try the Xcode export again, on 4.3 this time.
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2014, 10:53:43 PM »

Urgh that sounds like a wretched experience with LoomSDK. I feel your pain, nothing's worse than fighting the engine - especially a third-party engine that you don't know how to fix. We used Unity (like everybody else ...) and while it's huge and expensive and overkill for us, to its credit it does exactly what it says it does on the box and we've never hit any bugs.

From what you've said, any my past experience, I'd recommend you rip the plaster off now and port to a more stable engine!
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« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2014, 05:03:29 PM »

peterc_nz: yeah we're definitely leaning in that direction.  We've just gotten a designer on board so it's the perfect time to switch gears. We mostly stuck with Loom because we were pushing to get some ort of build ready for Bitsummit in Kyoto.

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Savick
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« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2014, 05:07:56 PM »

What? No elephant and donkey to actually represent clear and real political parties? Nah, it's okay if you don't have those I was just surprised not to see them. Art looks cute, I want the mouse to wear a top hat and monocle for some reason.
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« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2014, 05:09:53 PM »

Wait, so is there any real game code yet? Or is this still in the concepts stage?
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« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2014, 05:15:38 PM »

Well I'm off to Bitsummit in Kyoto tomorrow and I am both excited and terrified all at the same time!  We'd been planning on going for the past two months and working like crazy t make a decent prototype...but we basically failed.  We have a prototype of the sortie system in the game and a basic wrapper for a strategy game but not much else.  This was due to a variety of reasons, one of which Julius pointed out with his Loom discussion in the past post.  There's no backing out of Bitsummit though, as tickets and accomodations have been booked, and in any case the networking and handshaking I'll be doing there will be more than worthwhile.  But just so that we could present something to interested reporters, I worked on an explainer PDF of sorts that I could show off to reporters while I'm there.  In essence it's like a Kickstarter marketing pitch in PDF form, but I also imagined it as an SNES-style manual for the game.  I realize now that we probably haven't done a good job of explaining how the game in our heads would work, so I'm happy to share this with all of you ahead of Bitsummit.

If you want to download a PDF version of this head on to our presskit at Hey Party Animals!















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« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2014, 05:19:00 PM »

Savick : Since we're looking at it from a Philippine perspective the donkey and elephant motif probably won't be as prominent.  They could appear as special characters though!

Impmaster: There's definitely code already, but it's very much pre-alpha and we're still tinkering with the game design so we're a ways yet before we can release a demo or anything like that.  We would have preferred to stay quiet longer but I wanted to build a little bit of presence during Bitsummit.
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« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2014, 04:21:09 AM »

I arrived from Bitsummit last week ready to get back to work, instead I got Patellar Bursitis so I spent the past week or so recuperating and writing about some tips on attending Bitsummit here and here.  Events like Bitsummit are great for getting your team into gear and producing something on short notice.  But it's also nice to be able to relax, take a look at what's going on, and reassess everything.  We're still tinkering with some of the key game design concepts of Party Animals, and since I can't participate in the face to face meetings I'm working on some worldbuilding stuff that I'm SURE will be useful at some point down the line.  That includes sketching out some new characters, including the tortoise and otter I'm sharing with you today!



The tortoise is the head of the Stevedore's Union, and he represents the interests of dock workers in the capital city.  Given tortoises generally live to a ripe old age, I wanted the character to look old but tough.



The otter is a pearl diver who represents the interests of her water-based community.  She worries about the effects of big business on the pearls that her livelihood depends on.
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« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2014, 11:05:49 PM »

Try adding an oppossum in the mix xd




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« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2014, 02:45:45 AM »

All animals are welcome!  We're not like Animal Farm where some Animals are more Equal than others!
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« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2014, 03:00:06 PM »

That's the first Chuck Norris Turtle I've ever seen in my life... this game is insanely hilarious already and the artworks are brilliant. So dying to see it alive soon guys!
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