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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsFreeality - An Interactive Scifi Story
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foreignsubstances
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« on: September 23, 2015, 07:35:33 AM »

Freeality

is an episodic, story-driven and mind-bending scifi story based on player choice.

Gameplay:

The game will be developed in Twine, and will include three main modes of interaction: investigating a room or area, conversing with characters from the game, and taking an action which will affect the outcome. Freeality will contain variations on outcomes which generally follow a story arc.

  • Currently being built in Twine to manage the choice trees. There will probably be Javascript additions to manage aspects of the gameplay and presentation.
  • Investigate environments that can be, in turns, colorful, amusing, dark and bleak.
  • Converse with characters with choices for aggressive, neutral or friendly responses.
  • Progress as your choices color your experience in surprising ways.
  • Achieve a variety of outcomes which can then be carried over to the next episode.
  • Grapple with difficult decisions and face the repercussions, both good and bad.

Episode 1/Game Demo Story Summary:

Welcome to Uncanny Valley, an Animal Crossing-style town populated with whimsical anthropomorphic animals and a few humans. Here, Cass visits the interim mayor to discuss her recent lackluster display of community spirit as well as several ongoing violations of community rules.

Cass, a caustic and volatile young woman who appears 15 and 35 at the same time, upsets Uncanny Valley’s calm with obscene decorations that carry cryptic warnings.

While Cass surrounds herself with a small and devoted group of friends, her mood and behavior war with Uncanny Valley’s quaint, playful vibe. Despite her ceaseless trolling, Uncanny Valley’s citizens greet her with warmth and charm. However, she has few close friends.

Here's what the citizens of Uncanny Valley do not know: Cass and her friends are about to stumble upon a  mystery more disturbing than even the most obscene home decorations.

Inspirations:

  • Japanese Media - Technological Anime, Classic anime
  • Video Games - Interactive fiction, RPGs, Animal Crossing
  • Western Media - American Comics and Cartoons, Mysteries, Horror

About us:

Freeality is a collaboration between AEP and Foreign Substances. After years of collaborating on writing and multimedia projects, our ideas have culminated in this game project. This is our first foray into game development.

Project timeline:

We aim to have a playable demo by the end of 2015. The original concept included music and audio. In the interest of finishing the game by early 2016, we decided to focus on the narrative itself and use Twine to create a fun interactive story using our ideas.

By reducing the scope for the first part of the game, we hope to learn in the process of development, get feedback, and finish on time while building up energy for the second episode of the game. We have spent the past year developing the world, characters, plot, and possible game mechanics that will be implemented. The next step is to get a playable demo ready!

Thanks for checking out this devlog.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2015, 05:32:58 PM by foreignsubstances » Logged

foreignsubstances
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2015, 02:55:11 PM »

It's unclear how to do a devlog when there's very little emphasis on visuals in this game. It might be only text by the time we're done with the Exposition. This is because I want to maintain a scope which can be completed, and move on to the next section. This limitation on scope may also limit the audience, but I'm not sure how much I care about that.

Luckily, the gameplay is starting to take shape. I filled up a giant sheet of paper with gameplay mechanics which now are starting to fit together. I'll include it in the next update! There have been many phone conversations with AEP regarding plot direction and its relationship to these mechanics.

Questions we discussed:

1) Should the player be able to navigate freely between locations?

Regarding this, when you get to a place, you should have the option to a) investigate, which gives you a more detailed description and option to examine individual objects. There are Twine and traditional text adventures which have locations you can navigate, so this would be possible to implement.

2) Is there a way to promote player choice while limiting the scope of narrative outcomes?

We discussed the merits of a giant tree system that includes all player choices vs a system that uses a combination of conversation trees, true/false triggers, and sliding variables that account for the influences of player choice on game outcomes. Using sliding variables would allow for a more flexible system of determining what decisions result in what endings. However, this would need to be heavily playtested in order to make sure the resulting endings make sense within the narrative structure.

This could get very complicated. Maybe too complicated. The only way to find out is to try, so I am brushing up on my Javascript.

3) Which plot points should involve player choice?

SPOILERS

4) Who is the Addled Monkey?

He is a character in the game who has a lot to say.
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Spencer Bambrick
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2015, 06:16:25 PM »

Sounds awesome! Seems like an interesting vibe. I'd love to see some screenshots. Can't wait to see where this goes!
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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2015, 02:24:34 PM »

Thanks, Spencer! I'm glad you're into it. I'll post some screenshots of the development process so far in the next update.

I checked out your music - I like it a lot! You mention emotion in your mission statement, and the music definitely delivers. I'm actually setting up a workstation for audio so I can do the music for this game.

Hoping I will get it done by the time we've set to release it. It will be my first time doing game audio as I've spent many years working primarily in bands. Pretty psyched!
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Spencer Bambrick
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2015, 07:43:58 PM »

I'm glad you liked my music, thanks for taking a listen! I definitely appreciate it Smiley

It's cool you're setting up an audio workstation. If it's your first time definitely send me a PM or something if you run into trouble with anything and I'll lend whatever advice I can. I came from a more classical music background and switching over to games was tricky for me. Keep me updated and good luck!
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2015, 03:33:28 PM »

@Spencer Awesome, I'll be in touch! It must have been interesting crossing over from classical to games.

I'll be meeting with AEP over the weekend to do a day-long session for working on the game. He recently sent me a timeline for the plot, which put a lot of things in context that we had been talking about. My primary responsibility right now is to work on game design, programming, and descriptions of rooms/areas. I've created a big document that's basically a gigantic "to do" list. We'll tackle some of that this weekend.

I promise I'll have some visuals of development before Saturday! It's primarily text-based, but I think the writing will draw people in. I'll be posting pictures of the structure of prototype versions we've worked on thus far and glimpses into the development process.

Also, I've made a due date in December for setting up my studio. I'd love to get music into this game before it needs to be done.
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foreignsubstances
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« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2015, 12:41:27 PM »



Above is a working copy of a logo. Today was Development Day for Freeality. We set aside 7 or so hours to cower inside a comfortable cave, writing and making music. AEP used DarkRoom to write sections of the game while I used a Korg Nintendo DS synth to work on music for the first section. I also laid out the first section of the game in Twine, so that when the writing is ready we can bring it in and implement it.

AEP describes his writing progress as slow, steady, fruitful, and delicious. The results could be described as “delicious word-fruit.”



Bear witness to the squalor of imaginative labor. This is the first time I have set aside an entire day to do creative work in years. Thus, I found it much more challenging than my day job. Going forward we would both like to work on this project on a daily basis.

I also made some modifications to Twine. I installed Sugarcube and made an attempt at using a custom stylesheet called Hypercube, harkening back to the UI design seen in 90’s Macs.

As you can see, there is a hammer on the bookshelf in case of emergencies.



We are now on version 0.14 of Freeality. This version was a prototype of how plot structures and conversations could be laid out based on the narrative ideas we were using. Important design decisions were made regarding how the user will make choices in the game. How this ultimately is displayed will be determined by user feedback. Freeality has a lot going on in the plot, so the interface should be as transparent and useable as possible.

Surely, there will be many more development days as we take this project to completion. Until next time!
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2015, 05:43:22 PM »

///////// UPDATE: Writing and Design //////////

We have a lot of writing to work with. AEP really pumped out some great prose on the 10th. The challenge is to divide this writing up into readable chunks while keeping the user engaged and proceeding through these sections.

There are choices in the first part of the game, in addition to a significant amount of exposition. I am considering including some hypertext links to additional thoughts / information during this fast-moving exposition scene. My concern is that any diversion may slow down the pace. The pace is intended to be quick. Still, I don’t want people pressing the “next” button too many times in a row until they reach a choice. Finding some way around that may be difficult.

Insight will only come with playtesting and player feedback, so my goal is to have a playable demo of some kind by this weekend that I can share with a chosen few. Later may come a time when we open this up to more people, so if you’re interested, feel free to leave a comment or PM me.
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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2015, 05:09:42 PM »

///////// UPDATE: Music //////////

I just tested out the music for the first time in the game. This test was done with the advanced technology of playing the music through my Nintendo DS while playing the game prototype on my computer machine. In our studio we use only the most advanced technology to reach the height of achievement: basic functionality.

My goal is to have a teaser reel for the soundtrack by this weekend. It’s being created entirely in KORG DS-10 Synth Plus. The thing was purchased years ago when I saw Jamie from Xiu Xiu using it while wailing and smashing a cymbal. He is, in all seriousness, a very talented sound designer.

I have yet to decide whether I’ve screwed myself over with this limitation. It was originally imposed when I was on a plane to Seattle and set myself to work. I had then dumped enough time into a theme for the first area of the game that I decided to branch out and do the whole soundtrack in there. I also had no established working location, which I am trying to remedy now.

At worst, I can record all the parts into a computer and manipulate it in software. I am slowly assembling a desk to do work at. Until then, I will stoop with a vulture neck, DS stylus in hand. P.S. I’m really enjoying Undertale.
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slarti88
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2015, 06:23:47 PM »

I like the idea here. Its going to be interesting to see how the devlog progresses without you revealing too much of the plot Wink . I'm actually very curious to know what Cass and her friends have discovered,
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foreignsubstances
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« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2015, 07:26:10 AM »

@slarti88

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you're curious  Smiley. It is definitely an interesting line to walk when describing the development of what is right now a text-based game. This certainly makes sharing any of the content a little more tricky.

I'm hoping to describe our progress by focusing primarily on design decisions for now. This is a game where the design and writing process have been very closely related. Decisions about how the game will work have had a big influence on where the plot goes.

We might also do some logs written from within the Freeality universe, giving a glimpse of some aspect of it without spoiling the main plot.

Thanks for checking it out. Updates will continue on Wednesdays!
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2015, 06:22:23 PM »

///////// UPDATE: Music Technology Hell //////////

I am currently locked into a life and death struggle with the Nintendo DS. I've been composing music on the Korg DS-10+ and I can't get it off the cart now.

Recording the audio by 1/8″ audio jack sounded terrible with a variety of setups. At the risk of entering boring technical zone, I would ideally like to set up a virtual DS inside my computer using an emulator and transfer the files from my real DS to the emulated one.

The Korg DS game has a feature which allows you to transfer songs by wifi. There was a brief period when wifi emulation was happening, before Nintendo shut it down. My plan is to use a version of an emulator to transfer the files to my computer and capture the audio on my computer. I love that the video tutorial I’m watching is for Pokemon battles.

I spent a while fiddling with the settings until the audio didn’t sound terrible on the emu. I have no idea if this will work, and the few resources AEP and I have found online involve buying more Korg equipment or resorting to the 1/8″ jack. If you have any ideas on another method to try, feel free to leave a comment!
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2015, 11:08:25 AM »

Hey, man! Can't offer much help on the hardware front but I DO know a wonderful musician who composes quite often with a Korg appliance (Korg DS 12). He seems extremely friendly and I doubt he'd be opposed to helping you:
http://soundcloud.com/skyleo/korg-dsn-12-the-beginning-of-asia

Hope your music problems get sorted out!
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« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2015, 06:58:35 PM »

Hey!

Thanks for your kind words. I'll definitely look into getting in touch with your friend. I'm enjoying this track, and the audio quality is good!

I spent the past few hours working on possible solutions to the exporting issue. Korg DS-10 can exchange compositions between DSes, but it can't save to a flash card or connect with a PC. The hacky solution I've been working on is using the Desmume emulator with Wifi support to attempt to connect my real DS with an emulated DS on the computer.

Hours of tinkering and watching videos of Pokemon fans (they are the gamers most interested in battling between emu DS and real DS) giving tutorials on getting it to work, I still can't get any kind of connection. My plan B is to purchase one of the flash carts for the DS like the Acekard2i or R4i Gold+. This is all kind of bootleggy type hardware, but I feel comfortable discussing it here because I'm using it for a totally legitimate purpose. I also want to be able to share my progress if I'm  able to work this out..!

The best solution would be that I get the .sav files off the DS and onto my PC. The R4i is probably my best bet, given that the Acekard2i is old and has a history of wiping carts due to faulty connectors. I could then load them into the emulated Korg DS-10 in Desmume and record the audio stream to a .wav. That would be as near to lossless recording quality as I'm going to get. Most people don't have issues recording through a stereo line-in cable, but for whatever reason it's just not working for me yet.

Aaanyways.. This is a long-winded way of saying that I'm excited to share these tracks once they're ready and recorded. Thanks again for your help.
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« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2015, 09:00:42 AM »

This sounds really cool. I love the combination of dark/comedic/bleak you described in the first post. I'm a huge fan of Rick and Morty which I think pulls that off perfectly. I'll definitely follow the log and play this when it's done. Hyped to see what you come up with.
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2015, 03:22:54 PM »

@Natman

Thanks for checking it out! I'm glad you like the concept.  Gentleman The co-creator AEP loves Rick & Morty. I just started watching, and I was shocked at the places that show goes. There are some really great cartoons coming out this year - I've been super impressed with R&M and Bojack Horseman.

A prototype of the opening section of the game will be ready this week, and I'll be asking for some people to look at it for feedback shortly after. Woot!
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nathy after dark
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2015, 03:34:03 PM »

I'd love to offer my feedback.
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« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2015, 03:46:13 PM »

///////// UPDATE: Twine Design //////////

First off, thanks everyone for your support! Hearing from you means a lot, and gets me pumped for working on the game. I've decided to take a break from the audio situation for a few days until I give it another go. With that in mind, here is an update focused on the game's visuals thus far.

The template we’ve been using is called Hypercane, found at Glorious Trainwrecks. Below is a screenshot of the design implemented along with Sugarcube 2.0.



The sized-down screenshot looks quite different from what’s displayed in the browser, since it crushes the tesselating background which is neatly stored in encrypted text in the CSS. You can check it out at a live preview of the style on Leon’s site.

There are a few things I’d like to improve about the visuals thus far
  • The side-bar will need to be removed. We don’t plan on having a feature for going back or saving, since the game is focused on decision making. When I remove the sidebar, I am working on the CSS adjusting so that the CSS adjusts appropriately.
  • I’d like for the background to be somehow related to the theme of the section of the game while keeping the old-school OS feel.
  • For some reason the links aren’t displaying as they do on the demo page, using rounded outlines, which I think might be helpful in strongly emphasizing links as identifiable and usable.

The design should be interesting without being too busy, since the text and story should remain in the focus. There are some other issues related to text size, but I won’t reveal those just yet since they involve the playable part of the game. I'd like for the design of each section to match or complement its tone. I can't say much more about design relating to story without any spoilers.  Just wanted to give a taste of how the game appears on the screen so far, and where we’re headed with it!
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« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2015, 06:01:37 PM »

///////// UPDATE: Return! //////////

Sorry for missing the last few weeks. They have been busy!

We are now at Freeality version .18b. The narrative has been broken into pages to make its reading flow better, and to include new scenes which shed light on previous events, while giving more insight into the characters.

At this point we are nearing completion of the Exposition section. To make the final additions we’ve been sending the file back and forth with new changes.

Now that the game has made it this far, here are some of the things I’m thinking about for next steps:

  • Add final additional descriptions to the game. The scenes seem to be complete for the time being.
  • Complete music. I’ll be going on a plane trip soon, which is when I started composing the theme a year ago when we first had the idea for this game. There are still issues with getting the music off of the Nintendo DS, but my next idea is to test it on a different computer recording the audio output.
  • Test the game with players other than ourselves. AEP and I have both gone through the game many times, to make sure everything flows, but the only way to truly put design to the test is for others to play it and see if it clicks.

The game is now almost 8,000 words. A large part of our development over the last year was spent conceptualizing the world and designing how the game would function. Afterwards, we started to bring elements into Twine and see how they worked. I'm quite happy with how things are looking. We’re so excited to have made it this far!  Hand Metal Left
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« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2015, 05:32:25 PM »

///////// UPDATE: News Most Excellent //////////

We are down to the last – mostly superficial – changes to the game before doing some playtesting. This has opened up time and mind-space to start pouring out ideas for the next section, which will build out new gameplay elements and puzzles. AEP is writing out plans for the next part of the game and I’m working on implementing music.

There are a few things I’d like to look at, mostly regarding readability:

  • The font sizes for header and body text. Do the headers need to be smaller? Body text bigger?
  • Usability on multiple devices. I haven’t tested this properly yet
  • Do some of the pages need to be split up more? When playtesting myself today, I found that I lost focus midway through a page when a lot was happening in that section. I am going to test two methods. One will involve creating a separator as one might see in fiction, so the player doesn’t have to click again to read more. The other is just including a click to advance the page.

There is also excellent news! I’ve managed to record the music from the Nintendo DS in decent audio quality. I had to try three separate laptops, and the oldest one won out. It recorded in stereo and I’ll now be able to include audio using Javascript. Thanks to all who offered assistance during the trials of recording Nintendo DS audio.
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