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December 17, 2018, 07:42:16 AM

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« Reply #640 on: July 20, 2018, 12:54:06 PM »

From an outside perspective, it really feels like it's starting to come together lately -- excited to see how the systems end up working with each other!

Congrats on getting into XOXO Fest! I was disappointed that I had never heard of it until after registration ended, since I'm currently in Portland :/

Would love to see some longer-form captures at some point. Looking good!
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« Reply #641 on: July 24, 2018, 06:36:47 PM »

From an outside perspective, it really feels like it's starting to come together lately -- excited to see how the systems end up working with each other!

Congrats on getting into XOXO Fest! I was disappointed that I had never heard of it until after registration ended, since I'm currently in Portland :/

Would love to see some longer-form captures at some point. Looking good!

Thanks! It definitely does feel like it's coming together. There's still so much to do and it's hard for me to take a step back sometimes but I think it's turning into something nice! Would definitely like to do another video at some point. Maybe after the festival.

Also, I'll definitely try my best to mention any future festivals and conventions earlier on going forward!

--

I mentioned last time that the next step for me was tutorial work. I guess I should specify that when I say "tutorial" I mean entry flow and digestibility of all the game's systems. I want as much of the game as possible to be something the player can understand or experiment with on their own without explicit text popping up. I'll definitely have to use some instructional text in points, but I also have a few systems in place right now that no amount of text can really help.

The biggest thing that was bothering me was the nest room and the bedroom. In the past, they've just been big empty rooms that dogs had to be inside of in order to run specific behaviors (laying eggs and sleeping, respectively). This had a few major issues.

First of all, it meant that upgrade potential for these rooms was a bit limited. Increasing size was the only obvious path and even that felt kind of disconnected. When space becomes an issue in this game due to too many dogs getting stuck in a traffic jam, it's just frustrating. You can usually work through it so there's no real forced need to make bigger rooms. I can already imagine players annoying themselves to save money. It's bad.

The other big issue was that it made no sense. Why does a dog have to go into a differently colored room to do something? Gameplay-wise it makes sense but because there's no logical visual connection with the way I have things set up currently, it isn't something that players would immediately grasp and it doesn't feel satisfying to watch.

My solution seems obvious when I type it here, but it took me a bit to come up with. It was, once again, to make it glaringly obvious where dogs need to go. I built some dog stables.



So, what does this get me?

First of all, it gives a clear upgrade path. Stables are single-occupancy and take time to use so if you have a lot of dogs you'd obviously benefit from building more. You could also imagine improved stables that keep things moving faster, stables with add-ons that improve egg quality or reduce stress, etc, etc.

It's also way more clear. A dog having to be "inside" an empty room to lay an egg feels strange. From a player and implementation standpoint, where in this room does it actually need to be? If it can be anywhere in the room, how do you prevent dog traffic jams? If it has to be somewhere specific, that's gotta be so visually obvious. A dog having to be inside a very specific sub-object, complete with door and timer, is much easier to parse (at least to me). There's also some real world logic you can apply here. Chickens sit in nesting boxes to lay eggs. If your dog's gonna lay an egg it kinda makes sense it'd need to go to its own little nesting box.

Additionally, it's a built in way to help contain eggs. Before this dogs would often lay their eggs as soon as they got into the room, which meant they'd shoot back into the pipe the dog had just come from and then smash against the pipe wall.

The fourth advantage is that it adds another avenue for physics goofiness.



I've added these for sleeping as well. The graphics are obviously not final for this stuff and I think things will be even more readable with some improvements in that area. Even with how everything is currently, playing the game with these objects is way way nicer. It makes the underlying game mechanics and systems much more obvious and readable, which in turn makes them more rewarding and fun.

All this said, building these objects has put me a little bit behind schedule so I'm really gonna have to kick it into high gear. Building an object reservation system isn't the most straightforward thing to do in general, but doing it in a physics-based game is even more complicated.

I got to come up with solutions to all sorts of problems like:

  • What happens if a dog leaves a stable while the behavior is running? How do we even detect this?
  • What happens if multiple dogs are in the stable?
  • How does the navmesh update as the door opens/closes?
  • How do I deal with the physical space an open door usually takes up? (It took a few iterations to decide on the upward swing).
  • If a dog targets one stable and ends up inside another of the same type, how do we handle that?
  • What does a dog do when all the stables are full?
  • How do dogs score which stables are best for them when picking one to route to? How does this change when other dogs have decided to target those stables but haven't yet arrived at them? Should a dog ever decide to wait for an in-use stable rather than routing to a free one that's much further away? What does a dog do if the stable they're routing to gets used before they get to it?

I feel okay with my solutions to all these issues for now, but I suspect that they'll be stress tested a bit once I get further into development and start playing with larger pen setups and more dogs.

That's it for now. I still have so much to do for this demo!
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« Reply #642 on: July 28, 2018, 10:16:46 AM »

Another small-ish update as I dive into the entry flow in earnest.

There were a few other little things I wanted to lock down before doing this stuff, just so the loop was truly complete and I wasn't adding tutorial options for things that were absolutely going to change.

First up was the food growth cycle.

There were several things I wasn't happy with about the previous flow. First was that plants took so long to grow that it was hard to get started. Second, food went into your inventory after it was harvested which added an extra step to getting it into the world so your dogs could eat it. Third, you could place food wherever you wanted, which meant that the best strategy was often to just drop food in the nest so dogs could eat and lay eggs without moving at all.



My solution for now is to make it so that food grows relatively fast now, but is tethered in place where it grew from by a vine. You can't grow more food in a plot until the previous bit of food has been consumed, so you can never really just garden to the point of excess, and there's a real reason to build more plots because more dogs can eat simultaneously. This also enforces my desire for dogs to have to go to a very specific location in order to eat. We'll see how it holds up long-term, but for now I'm really happy with this solution.

I'd still like to polish this up so that it looks more like the food is actually sprouting. I'll have to figure that out because it isn't as clear as I'd like it to be right now.

And then I also realized I needed to fill in the end of work day results screen because it'd been completely blank for a while.



As well as showing how much money you made and how many eggs you sold, I thought it'd be fun to add in a little system for Dog Feats. I only have 4 feats being tracked right now, but I'd like to add a bunch more going forward. They don't affect anything at the moment but it feels like the right sort of tone for the game and I'm pretty pleased.
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« Reply #643 on: August 02, 2018, 10:24:32 PM »

What happens if multiple dogs are in the stable?
The Fly (1986) movie offers one possibility.  

On second thought, that could explain the Halloween and other "special" creatures you've posted.  Grin

A few more thoughts on the stable topic:
-Perhaps thinking of it as a situation similar to vehicles needing to refuel could work.  
-Are the stables close to each other or could they be placed anywhere?
-How long does it take for a dog to lay an egg.  If it's not "too long", then waiting would be fine.  
-If a dog intends to use a stable, then dogs in and in front of the stable should be "asked to leave".  That way the gate would close without issue.  Also could be true when the dog is done and the stable door is ready to be opened.
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« Reply #644 on: August 03, 2018, 05:12:39 AM »

This is so good.
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« Reply #645 on: August 14, 2018, 08:11:25 PM »

What happens if multiple dogs are in the stable?
The Fly (1986) movie offers one possibility.  

On second thought, that could explain the Halloween and other "special" creatures you've posted.  Grin

A few more thoughts on the stable topic:
-Perhaps thinking of it as a situation similar to vehicles needing to refuel could work.  
-Are the stables close to each other or could they be placed anywhere?
-How long does it take for a dog to lay an egg.  If it's not "too long", then waiting would be fine.  
-If a dog intends to use a stable, then dogs in and in front of the stable should be "asked to leave".  That way the gate would close without issue.  Also could be true when the dog is done and the stable door is ready to be opened.

I've figured out answers to all my stable-related questions for now! Fortunately for me as much complexity comes from the physics, that system also saves me some trouble. For example, I don't care too much if a dog's in the way of the door because it'll just knock 'em someplace else!

This is so good.

Thank you!

--

Gotten a ton of work done since the last update. At this point I've gotten the tutorial/entry flow/festival flow completely implemented and functional, game restarts included. This game is uh, a bit unique, so there's a lot to teach people. There's definitely room for me to improve how I do this but for the deadline I'm operating under I knew I'd have to have actual text in place in many instances to explicitly tell you what to do. With this in mind, my first pass at the tutorial just used little pop up windows with text and sometimes a screenshot or two. It was immediately obvious after trying this out myself that this was an awful idea. It was so boring. No one was going to read this text, and if they did they'd probably be irritated about it.

My solution was to have a character explain these things to you instead of a random text box. I'd been wanting an excuse to do something like this for a while, long time readers will remember the characters I'd tried to introduce in the past, but the systems behind those past characters never really solidified enough for me to invest in them. In this case putting in a temporary character immediately breathed life into the previously painfully boring tutorial, and with this festival coming up I decided to take the leap and hire someone to design and draw something for me! Things are going well on that front and I should be able to share more soon!

Related, I rewrote my dialogue system. The previous iteration was a huge mess and took a ton of time to set up every time I wanted to use it in a new place. This new version is way lighter-weight and has some nicer bits of polish as well! I took the time to briefly implement text scale-in through TextMeshPro. It was a little trickier than I expected it to be but ultimately not too bad. It shouldn't be too hard for me to add stuff to this system later if I want to. The current implementation of this has been tweaked to look a little nicer but this is the gif I had lying around. You'll see more later!



The rest of the work on the tutorial would be pretty uninteresting to talk about. It's mostly a huge statemachine that does lots of stuff like disabling/enabling certain behaviors and player interactions to stop you from breaking the flow.

I've also been doing some polish work so this game looks a bit more presentable and fun! I'll show some of the more interesting stuff.



I've got some non-unity primitive graphics for gardening and I've polished it up a little. I'd eventually like to have some little jiggly leaves around the final piece of food but that's for another time.

I've also done some texture updates for the different work rooms to further differentiate them!







Another big change I made was with how dog eyes/mouths are handled. I'd been thinking about this for a while, and I might still go back on it, but I'm leaving it in for the time being to see how I like it. It's important to me for you to feel attached to your dogs in this game. Something that actively hinders that, however, is that they change so much over time. Dogs very quickly become unrecognizable as they mutate and it makes it hard to remember which is which. To try and counter that, I've made it so dog eyes and mouths will never mutate. Those aspects of a dog will stick with an individual forever.



I also give each of these unique pups a suggested name when they hatch, and there's room in the future here for me to attach unique personality traits or other quirks to dogs as individuals. The secondary objective for all this is to kinda push a "mascot" dog. A singular and recognizable mouth and set of eyes that anyone who plays the game will encounter right off the bat. For now that'll be Randy, here.

Oh, and last but not least...


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« Reply #646 on: August 15, 2018, 10:20:42 AM »

Sorry, first thing it reminded me of:





Looking good! Nice to see things getting filled out!


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« Reply #647 on: August 18, 2018, 02:46:34 PM »

I checked out the first ~30 mins of your livestreaming (unfortunately don't have time to watch the whole thing) and had a few notes; also I felt a little guilty about my previous low-effort post.

I thought it was really interesting actually, gives a much better sense of the game as a whole to see it from this perspective, as opposed to the short gifs.

For particle systems, I've found it to be really useful to keep a small number of particle system templates for very common types. (such as omni burst, generic impact, constant flow, trail, projectile, etc) Then if I needed to fill out a scene with placeholder assets it's very quick to duplicate the most similar one and just switch out the texture, or change the number of particles, etc. Looks like that's kind of what you were able to do for that star-burst button FX, but just wanted to mention since I found it a useful technique for quickly populating a scene with particle systems before returning later to refine.

Also, in regards to simple geometry and mesh objects, like the plant's leaves: if you'd like I could help you out in that department. It wouldn't be a very big task since the objects are intentionally simple, and I've been looking for opportunities for tasks unrelated to my current project to help alleviate my burnout, which is a growing issue for me recently.

By the way, I can't be sure just from the stream, but it looks like the issue with your plant's leaf is that its mesh normals are inverted - so you're actually seeing the interior of the leaf's surface. That would also cause the weird issues with lighting (a classic indication that normals might be involved). If that's the case, it's an incredibly easy fix, like <5 mins.
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« Reply #648 on: August 21, 2018, 02:00:45 PM »

I checked out the first ~30 mins of your livestreaming (unfortunately don't have time to watch the whole thing) and had a few notes; also I felt a little guilty about my previous low-effort post.

I thought it was really interesting actually, gives a much better sense of the game as a whole to see it from this perspective, as opposed to the short gifs.

For particle systems, I've found it to be really useful to keep a small number of particle system templates for very common types. (such as omni burst, generic impact, constant flow, trail, projectile, etc) Then if I needed to fill out a scene with placeholder assets it's very quick to duplicate the most similar one and just switch out the texture, or change the number of particles, etc. Looks like that's kind of what you were able to do for that star-burst button FX, but just wanted to mention since I found it a useful technique for quickly populating a scene with particle systems before returning later to refine.

Also, in regards to simple geometry and mesh objects, like the plant's leaves: if you'd like I could help you out in that department. It wouldn't be a very big task since the objects are intentionally simple, and I've been looking for opportunities for tasks unrelated to my current project to help alleviate my burnout, which is a growing issue for me recently.

By the way, I can't be sure just from the stream, but it looks like the issue with your plant's leaf is that its mesh normals are inverted - so you're actually seeing the interior of the leaf's surface. That would also cause the weird issues with lighting (a classic indication that normals might be involved). If that's the case, it's an incredibly easy fix, like <5 mins.

Haha, no need to feel guilty! It was pretty accurate. *I* apologize that ~20 of the 30 minutes you spent watching my stream involved me failing to notice that my particle effect wasn't working because I'd attached it to the wrong variable in the prafab!

The particle system tip is super good. Like you mention, I do kinda have it set up that way it's just not organized very well. That's probably one of my bigger weaknesses right now. When I work in teams I'm good at keeping stuff like that structured but when I'm alone I let things slip and don't invest in organization to the extent that I should. It's good to be poked about this stuff. I should be more conscious about workflow.

As far as your offer to help with the models, I really appreciate it but I actually plan on hiring someone at a later point to do 3D stuff for me (the more complex models, the skybox, etc) and I'll most likely have them re-do a lot of my existing 3D work, like the plants. I'm kinda inclined to leave things in the "good enough for a placeholder" state for the time being. I did take a quick look at the leaf normals though (appreciate the tip!). They look correct to me in Blender, I think the model just has strange topology, haha.
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« Reply #649 on: August 21, 2018, 05:56:07 PM »

We've got a tutorial dog!



I'm calling him Murphy for now; we'll see if it sticks. His art was done by Eric Kubli and I'm really happy with how he fits in the game. He's vector-based so I had to look into SVG importers. It was kind of a pain to sort out (lots of tweaks had to be made to the original file, and the only way I could get the colors to show up correctly was to switch the conversation system to use Unity GUI), but the in-game result is now really smooth and nice.

I used unity's animation system to bounce him around a bit; something that wouldn't nearly look as nice if I was using sprites.



Besides just helping you through the tutorial I'd like to have him continue to pop back in every now and then to check up on you and give you stuff.

I've also replaced the egg bin's graphics with something more human-readable and added some relevant messages for when it won't be able to turn on for some reason.



And then the final sorta flashy thing I did was add in a gimmick room for people to play with during the demo.



You can flip through a little preset list of grav options and it's pretty fun!

The rest of the demo is coming along well and I'm very confident that it'll be in a good place for the festival. There are some larger design issues that have started to crop up but I won't really have time to think about that stuff until afterwards. For now I've just gotta forge ahead with what I've got!
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« Reply #650 on: September 04, 2018, 09:47:13 PM »

So, I've been super busy since the last update with XOXO prep. Even though it's stressful, it's been really nice to have the pressure because it means I'm getting a lot done and I'm tackling issues that under normal circumstances I'd be putting off. I've made so many changes that it wouldn't be reasonable to list them all here but I can show off some of the bigger developments.

First up, I made some walking and turning improvements. It's still not as good as I'd like but this was sorely needed and it's had pretty huge effects on how good things feel.

I did a lot of bug fixing and optimizing to turning itself, making sure dogs are smart with how and when they decide to do it, but I've also added more external stabilization for keeping dogs upright while walking and for keeping them oriented towards their goal. It's cheating, yes, but I've already had cheat stabilization in for a while and having it around feels so much nicer than not having it. The key is adjusting it so it doesn't feel unnatural when it kicks in and so it turns off at the right moments when dogs actually do need to tumble.

I mis-adjusted the orientation adjustment originally and ended up with some extremely fake-looking, though funny, turning.



After getting all my fixes in and adjusting everything, however, I ended up with something that both looks and works pretty nicely.



For reference, before my changes this route took roughly double the amount of time as it does in this gif. I can probably pump up my adjustment values even further without sacrificing physical believably so I might experiment a bit more with this stuff soon.

I've also been doing a ton of general graphical sprucing. A lot of it is just putting in real graphics for stuff that used to be placeholder, and there are too many updates to show them all off but one of the funnier ones is this dog crib model (still placeholder, but I wanted it to be visually distinct) that ended up looking like a prison cell.



I also did a pretty large overhaul to the mutation screen. There's more I wanna do to it still, but it looks so much nicer than before!



I've been improving the dialogue system a bit as well. I updated my text scale effect to work as a static class effect that can be called from anywhere, so I have it being run in multiple places throughout the game other than just in the dialogue system, which is nice. You can see it in the above pupation gif, for example. I've also updated the effect to work with sprites.



The lowered gif framerate makes the effect look choppier here than it does in the actual game, but rest assured it's nice and smooth. I did all this so I could showcase dog Need icons in the dialogue itself to better illustrate some mechanics that people weren't quite able to pick up on.

Oh, and you might've noticed if you saw the front page of this devlog but I've finally got a real logo!



It was done by Lily Nishita and I'm really happy with it! I can't tell you how nice it is to not be using my horrible little placeholder logo any more.

And now that I have a real logo, I got business cards made up as well.



I'm mostly happy with them, though in the future I'd like to try and remember to make business cards using CYMK colors from the start rather than doing them in RBG and attempting to convert last minute.

I've also updated my website, though I still need to replace some of the older gifs with better, more recent ones.

And finally, it wouldn't be a real devlog update without a horrific bug gif, so here's an issue (since fixed) where Randy couldn't stop laying eggs.



Normally I'd go a bit more in-depth into some of the above changes but, especially these past few days, I've been extremely busy and I don't really have the time or energy right now. Overall I'm feeling really good about the state I've managed to get this game into over the past few months. That said, the work gameplay still needs iteration, and that's what I'm feeling most anxious about. It isn't where I'd like it to be yet, though I do still think it's on the right track. We'll see how this all holds up at XOXO. I think it'll mostly be fine, I just wish I had an extra week or two! Still, I'm looking forward to letting people try it out and I think it's gonna be a good time. I'll report back afterwards!
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« Reply #651 on: September 17, 2018, 09:34:19 AM »

It's been a week since the festival and I've had some time to decompress a bit. I took last week off since I was working weekends and crunching a bit leading up to the fest and I'm feeling refreshed and looking forward to getting back into things.

I didn't actually grab any pics of the event, so this is just gonna be a bunch of words.

Overall, the fest went well! The game never crashed. There were no major bugs. People generally knew what they were supposed to do and mostly never got stuck. I also got to talk to a lot of people who said they'd been following the game since its inception, which was a little surreal but also really cool. I did have to tackle a last minute, machine-specific bug fix minutes before I was about to walk out my hotel door to the demo floor, but it all worked out. In terms of setup, I really should've put the title screen into the demo so there was an obvious prompt for people walking by to come and grab the game and know they were at the start of the experience. The demo could stand on its own without me watching over it but if there wasn't an actual line of people waiting to check it out the lack of a start screen meant it wasn't as inviting as it could've been. Ironically, I also don't think the demo was overall as fun to watch as I'd have liked. The dogs really lend themselves to passive viewing, but because I was trying to teach the player a bunch of new mechanics and concepts in a short period of time, the demo had a lot of text and I think that turned some viewers away. I'll have to think about ways to improve that going forward.

Anyways, takeaways!

  • People loved the graphics. This surprised me but I had a lot of people specifically tell me they hoped I wouldn't change the style. It's funny, I think it's obvious to people that the 3D stuff was all made by me and that I'm not necessarily an expert in that regard, but they also find the style charming. There are still some aspects of the art that I absolutely want to get some help with because I don't think I can really do them on my own, but given the reactions I've been getting, I think I'll try to be conscious about not going too far with that.
  • The demo feels full. Lots of people asked where they could play the game right now and others were surprised when I told them it had a few more years of development left. Obviously it's a trick right now because there's no content beyond the demo itself but it's good to know that, for the most part, it didn't feel like there was much obviously missing from the experience. The loop has legs.
  • On the other hand, I'm not happy with the loop. I watched a lot of people play through the demo and although most seemed to enjoy it, I don't think the gameplay is fully there yet. The home stuff is fine, it does what I want it to do barring some minor stuff I'll need to tweak but the work stuff isn't good enough for me. I don't think it's as fun as it should be to drag the dogs around between rooms. I think this could improve with better controls but I don't think that's enough. I want to spend some time this week brainstorming, but I want to try and increase the focus on construction and automation. I think it's going to be more fun building a dog-powered machine than it is to build a split up dog ranch. If that doesn't make any sense to you that's ok, I'll talk more about this as it solidifies.
  • It's great for kids! I had a few little kids try the demo out and it went well! I was worried about things being too hard to control or understand but that wasn't as much of an issue as I'd thought it would be. The game's shaping up to be an all ages experience which is exactly what I want.
  • Work/Home separation is confusing. I need to make it more obvious that those locations are completely different. I probably need some sort of travel screen/animation to really sell it. Some people didn't always realize that the locations were entirely different sets of rooms.
  • Pupation/Mutation isn't fully there yet. The concept was funny to people but it doesn't really tie into gameplay much right now and that'll need to change. Again, I have ideas for this but they aren't fleshed out yet. They'll need to get there though or else this mechanic will be left feeling unnecessary.
  • Work/Home separation works mechanically. Some people didn't care too much about hanging out at home, but others spent most of their demo time there. That's pretty much the balance I was expecting and hoping for and it makes me think the separation is gonna work like I hoped to keep both types of players interested and engaged.

So that's mostly it! I have a lot of work in front of me to get things where I want but I think I'm at least mostly on the right track. There are still some big mechanics I want to iterate on but I do think things are moving towards something good! I'm really happy I had this festival deadline to force me to build out a vertical slice of everything. It's been extremely helpful in identifying strengths and weaknesses and it feels incredible to have a demo version of the game I could show to people in a pinch if required.
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« Reply #652 on: October 02, 2018, 05:59:42 PM »

After a little break I've been back at it trying to design and build out some of that automation gameplay I'd mentioned last time.

Overview:
  • No more time limit. You'll be able to spend as long as you want at work. You'll still wanna occasionally go home, however, because that's where you get to mutate your dogs (and chill out if it suits you). Mutation is important because genes will directly affect the types and amount of eggs that dogs lay, meaning your productivity is limited if your dogs never evolve.
  • Egg laying will be simplified. My idea right now is that dogs have a genetic "stomach capacity" that determines how much they can eat. The more they can eat, the more eggs they'll lay at once. For now, I'm getting rid of stress and energy as requirements for laying eggs. Egg properties will be determined by a combination of the food ingested and the dog's actual genetic code.
  • Manual object placement. Upgrades will no longer be auto-placed in pens. You'll have direct control over positioning of most things. It didn't feel right for this aspect to be automated.
  • Egg Factory Construction. Once the eggs are laid you'll be building a little automated factory that processes these eggs and sorts them between eggs used for research and those you just wanna sell.

This is all in prototype-land for the time being but I'm excited about the prospects! The placement and time limit things are necessary regardless of anything else, so I don't consider those risky to be trying out. The factory stuff is a bit more of a departure but I'm trying to keep it relatively unpolished until I'm positive it works.

The first thing I worked on was the conveyor belt system I wanted in order to move eggs around. It doesn't make sense to build something like this in this project unless it's physics-based so I had some work to do.

I initially tried to set it up the same way I set up the super old dog movers from dog racing. That is, just applying a directional force on any rigidbody that comes in contact with a designated surface.



This works but it doesn't look or act like a conveyor belt, physics-wise, so next I tried modelling it more accurately.



There were a few complications to start with but I got it eventually. The basic idea is to spawn a set of Kinematic rigidbodies that move along a spline using MovePosition(). It works pretty well and is surprisingly more performant than I originally thought it'd be. Hoping that continues to scale.



Next up was a machine that'd move eggs from conveyor to conveyor. In order for this system to be at all interesting, there needs to be conditionals. The idea behind these is that they'll be limited by their speed, which makes for some interesting utilizations, but they'll also be able to filter the eggs they grab based on those eggs' properties.



Then, I built out a little placement system using the same grid-tech from construction mode.



I did a first pass at the egg laying so the system supports laying a dynamic number of eggs at once.



And all put together I have the start of a little prototype for this stuff. This machine isn't doing any direct filtering yet, but because the egg grabbers are speed limited, it roughly splits a batch of eggs between two zones; one for selling the eggs and the other for doing research.



The idea behind the research is that you'll need to feed your research station eggs of different types in order to unlock more machinery and genetic tools for your dogs. My hope is that the interesting aspect of the machine construction is that (along with contending with physics and dog mischief) you won't necessarily want all eggs ending up in the same place. I still want to build out a few more testing add-ons for this production cycle but I'm getting pretty close to being able to test out a full little cycle, which feels good. If I can get that feeling nice then I'll actually start to polish this stuff a bit.

This stuff isn't the simplest to build out but it isn't as far off from my existing systems and content as it first seems, and the previous work content wasn't going to be fun enough to sustain a full game. IMO it's base level interesting just to watch a machine like this operate, so even if I don't get wild levels of complexity, I think there's potential here.

Anyways, that's it for now. Hoping another week or so on this will have me in a good place prototype-wise!
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« Reply #653 on: October 29, 2018, 03:10:57 PM »

I've been putting off writing this post for a bit because at this point I'm feeling a lot like The Boy Who Cried Dogs with all the times I've sat down and written about putting this project through a major re-design.

I think it's pretty obvious looking back on it that the last post in this devlog, the one about the factory, was a huge red flag and a sort of hilariously overcomplicated and risky direction to try and pivot to. I've done a lot of thinking recently, and I've kinda come full circle in terms of my thoughts about this project. Wobbledogs started out as a pure pet simulation experience and over the past few years I've tried extremely hard to inject structured gameplay into it, but I've come up short every time. In the end, this game and all its systems started with some pretty massive assumptions and I don't feel that I can turn this thing into any sort of gameplay-first experience while simultaneously keeping all the elements people have come to care about in tact.

In short, I'm giving up on the idea of making this into a more traditional "game". I've tried super hard over the past year especially to deliver on the game side of things but I no longer feel it's something I can do, at least in any sort of efficient and satisfying way. The possibility of never finishing this game has been looming over me the past few months especially. I desperately want to share these dogs with everyone, but the only way that'll happen is if I buckle down and make some concessions.

Wobbledogs is a pet simulation game. It was always meant to be a pet simulation game. It's going to be somewhat sandbox-y, it's going to be somewhat self-directed, and it's gonna be chock full of the dogs you so desperately crave.

Here's my slightly ambitious plan. 6 months of pre-production, then 6 months of heavy content creation. I'd like to be at the point where 1 year from now I could, if I wanted to, release at least a beta/early-access version of this game. I'm not saying that I WILL do that, just that I'd like to be at the point where I could.

System's-wise, I plan to tackle (or already have tackled) the following:

  • Removing old functionality, like work.
  • Re-introducing stats and stat decay.
  • Sleeping re-design.
  • Food re-design.
  • Egg system re-design.
  • Mutation swaying.
  • Breeding.
  • Dog sharing.
  • AI and behavior updates.
  • Pen modification and object placement system deep dive.
  • Shop re-design.
  • Dog aging.
  • In-game achievements/unlocks.
  • Dog rewards and gifts.

Much of this is re-implementing old systems, but as things have evolved over the past few years the engine has changed a lot and many of my old solutions no longer work with the current systems. I also realize that some of the above bullet points are a bit cryptic. I have a plan for all of them but I'll hold off talking about things until I get around to making them. The high level plan is that dogs will lay eggs periodically, which you can sell for money, which you can use to buy fun stuff from the shop, sway mutations, and breed your dogs. Shop stock will refresh on a real-world day basis, but you'll also be able to unlock certain things by completing in-game goals or potentially by triggering semi-random in-game events. I'd also like to increase the focus on pen customization/construction. Sort of a Petz/Animal Crossing/The Sims hybrid.

We'll see how it all turns out, but as I've started back in on things over the past few weeks, it's been going smoothly and the more I work on stuff the more I feel like this is the right decision.

Here's what I've gotten to so far.

After adding back in stats and stat-decay, I dove into sleeping. Originally dogs used a dynamic node system to find isolated points to go conk out. Then I ripped that out because it was buggy and incompatible with new designs and instead I made specific objects for them to use. Now I'd once again like them to be able to sleep anywhere they please. My solution for this was to hijack my grid-based object placement system I'd started working on recently to figure out good isolated places for dogs to go snooze.



I use the placement grid to find semi-enclosed positions. Cells get a score based off their distance on each side to another blocked cell. When that score is above a certain value, it marks the cell as isolated and it can be used to generate an isolated position for behaviors such as sleeping. The one side-effect of this strategy is that my system tends to mark walkway-like points as isolated. However, every dog I've ever seen in real life treats doorways as resting spots, so I'm pretty okay with this behavior.

The second part of this is that I needed to come up with a way to stop dogs from sleeping in high-traffic areas. In the future I'll also need ways of moving dogs towards/away from these areas depending on personality and mood, so I wanted to come up with a good re-usable system for these things. My solution was to create a sort of dog heat-map using the same grid.



The decay rate is a bit high here but I've since lowered it a bunch. Dogs can also reserve cells when starting to run a behavior that uses them. Dogs can still end up crashing in the same relative spot but this system keeps them from literally choosing the same spot as another dog and not actually being able to get over to it.



I had a bit of time left on my schedule so I also finally dove in and reduced neck tension for sleeping dogs. Their heads were always so rigid in the past, but now they'll flop around and push up against other objects as needed.



And then I've also taken another pass at food. In the past I'd gotten stuck figuring out how to create a food system that both wasn't too intensive or too passive, and I think I've gotten it figured out.



I'm re-using the garden plot system from the previous work mode, but now you can manually place these plots anywhere you want, and once you plant something, the plot will continue to grow only that food for the rest of its life. Additionally, you can "pick" the grown food from the plot once it's ripe, so food doesn't have to be tied to one specific area. This also has a nice effect of making individual pieces of food less valuable. I'm trying to remove/highly reduce the need for a specific object inventory, and with this design there's no reason food has to be involved with your inventory at all. The plots themselves can cost money to buy but the food will most likely be free to grow after, so if a piece of food falls off the stage, it's no big deal.

That's about it for now. I'm working on the egg overhaul now and mutation swaying will probably be next. Things are moving along at a really nice pace so far and I'm excited to get all these systems in place and functioning.

Until next time!


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JobLeonard
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« Reply #654 on: October 30, 2018, 11:05:32 AM »

Hey, sometimes it takes a lot of trying to fully understand what you started with Wink

And we all loved this DevLog since the first posts, so it's not like we'll complain if you go back to that concept!
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« Reply #655 on: November 05, 2018, 12:13:09 PM »

To echo JobLeonard a bit, yeah you learned a lot about what works and what doesn't while exploring those different directions and finding the project's identity. Furthermore, the dogs themselves have gotten better and better through all the iterations so I don't think it was wasted time.

I'm constantly surprised at just how difficult it is to combine sandbox & 'gameplay'.

Out of curiosity, what do you think was the main issue with the gameplay loop of your XOXO build? It sounded like it was working pretty well at that point?

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« Reply #656 on: November 05, 2018, 12:26:56 PM »

Wow, this has come a long way since I was last here! It looks absolutely beautiful, I love how much character you've added to the dogs while keeping them so simple (which, of course, is the most important part of their character). As far as design decisions go, in my opinion this really can't go wrong as long as you keep the Wobbledogs. Keep up the good work, I can't wait to experience it for myself!
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ActualDog
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« Reply #657 on: November 08, 2018, 06:01:12 PM »

Hey, sometimes it takes a lot of trying to fully understand what you started with Wink

And we all loved this DevLog since the first posts, so it's not like we'll complain if you go back to that concept!

Haha, yeah that's unfortunately true. Hopefully this time around I do actually understand what I'm making!

I'm constantly surprised at just how difficult it is to combine sandbox & 'gameplay'.

Out of curiosity, what do you think was the main issue with the gameplay loop of your XOXO build? It sounded like it was working pretty well at that point?

Yeah, it's a nightmare to try and figure out! I think the biggest thing I've learned, which seems obvious in retrospect, is that starting a project as one thing and then trying to morph it into something else while simultaneously keeping everything that was interesting about it originally is a very difficult and probably ill-advised path to travel, haha.

As far as my previous build's issues go, the main problem I couldn't get around was that, in my opinion, it's just not fun to deal with the inefficient movement of my dogs when there's an explicit goal. It's not fun to watch them try and move someplace when there's something at stake, and manually moving them around yourself both isn't actually fun, and actively bypasses the goofy movement that gives the dogs a lot of their inherent charm. Also, while I had a build that had an okay little loop, I wasn't confident in my ability to figure out a good way of scaling that loop to increase in complexity and last an entire game's length.

There's some stuff in that build I'm really pleased with, but overall I don't think making a full game out of it would've worked out very well.

Wow, this has come a long way since I was last here! It looks absolutely beautiful, I love how much character you've added to the dogs while keeping them so simple (which, of course, is the most important part of their character). As far as design decisions go, in my opinion this really can't go wrong as long as you keep the Wobbledogs. Keep up the good work, I can't wait to experience it for myself!

Thanks so much!

--

My main desire for dog mutations was to come up with some way of letting players influence mutations while still keeping the system fiddly enough that you can never predict the exact outcome. My original plan for this overhaul was to just go dead simple with things and let players dump money into different mutation categories each time a dog entered a cocoon, in order to let them sorta pick the rough direction they want things to head in. As I started working on that system, however, it was immediately pretty obvious that that was a real boring way of doing things.

This is a problem I've tried to figure out in the past to no avail, but I figured I'd give it one more go, so I brainstormed a bit and settled on something that I'm extremely pleased with. Enter, gut flora!



The basic idea is that dogs all have an actively simulating gut filled with flora of different types. What they eat directly effects what flora populate their guts, and the flora themselves sway a dog's mutation categories and chances.

I've got a basic version of this working right now and while there's still a lot to figure out, I'm pretty excited about the possibilities it opens up. I'm still deciding how far I wanna take all of this, but this system could provide a clear path towards actual systemic dog sickness and medicine. Also, it gives a real reason for there to be different types of foods in the game. Before now, I hadn't really come up with a good reason to ever have you grow unique stuff.

The flora can interact with each other according to a little system I've built. They have different rules about what they can eat, what happens when they eat something, and what happens when they themselves are consumed. It's pretty easy to expand this stuff, and I'm hoping that it'll be interesting to poke around in these guts and figure out how to get the interactions you want.

Implementation-wise, every dog gets a gut with some pre-seeded flora when they're first created. This is always simulating using 2D physics. When two flora collide, there's some logic to figure out if one should consume the other. If a gut ever gets more than X number of flora, the system picks a random one to delete, so there's a hard cap on how expensive this can all get. That said, I'm still keeping an eye on performance since it's using the physics system, but there's a lot of optimization potential here should I need to go down that road so I'm not overly concerned.

That's about it for now! I've also been fixing lots of misc routing and targeting bugs (they never seem to end), and I've got dogs laying eggs again. Excited to keep bopping away at this mutation stuff!


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JobLeonard
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« Reply #658 on: November 10, 2018, 01:19:59 AM »

Gut flora! Yay! :D

Also, glad to see that you're keeping up the tradition of including at least one gif of shellshocked wobbledogs
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« Reply #659 on: November 10, 2018, 01:55:13 AM »

This is such a special game. That's the only way I can put it. It's weird, it's unique, it's wonderful. Whether it's a crazy dog factory or a pet and gut flora simulator, it's still wonderful. Keep going~
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