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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsAgatha Knife: A new Psychotic Adventure from Mango Protocol!
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Author Topic: Agatha Knife: A new Psychotic Adventure from Mango Protocol!  (Read 4426 times)
pixelmeat
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« on: July 07, 2016, 09:09:02 am »

Log #1



Hello!
This is our second game and, as the first one, it's a point & click adventure.
I'll be hosting this DevLog, and it's my first one, so I think I'll need some time to get used to knowing what to write about or what are the topics you are more interested in.

What's a Psychotic Adventure?
First of all I'd like to tell you a little bit about Mango Protocol and what we do. We're basically developing the stories we want to tell, and they almost always include social criticism, mature topics tackling and lots of humor. I guess there's nothing we can't make a joke about. That's why we love Mariona's art style. We really enjoy mixing sweet childlike characters with complex situations such as religion, animal rights, the education system, prostitution, gender identity and so on... Any story that we create inside this universe is a Psychotic Adventure.

What's this game about?
Agatha Knife is a 7 year old girl who has two passions. All the animals and meat. Of course, the only way to live with such a dilema is to create a new religion and convince all the animals that being slaughtered and turn into meat is the only way to redemption and eternal happiness.

Features!

  • Handcrafted, colorful and naive art style
  • Adult topics
  • Mature content Well, hello there!
  • Acid humor
  • Open world
  • Countless geek references



Sounds good? Well, let me show you how it looks, so we can hear your opinions.

Here you have some screenshots:






Where are we now?
Well, the game is half done already. That's because we are using the same engine that we used for MechaNika, our first game. Javi, our programmer did a great job. So "all" that's left to do is produce the art and implement the new puzzles, all the dialogues  and game mechanics.
We just finished a short demo which we'll be showing at the upcoming Gamelab 2016 and some other events we plan to attend.
From now on, I'll keep posting our progress here and asking for your feedback as often as I can. So that's all for now. Please tell us how you feel about Agatha Knife, we'll be pleased to answer your questions and read your opinions.



If you are hyped about Agatha Knife, you can play MechaNika in the meantime!
« Last Edit: April 27, 2017, 09:15:33 am by pixelmeat » Logged

ProgramGamer
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2016, 12:20:57 pm »

Hey, I saw this a while ago and was wondering where it went. Glad to see it come back :D
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ashtonmorris
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2016, 12:44:52 pm »

Awesome. Love the art style Evil
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2016, 01:13:36 pm »

yay! so hyped!


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pixelmeat
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2016, 11:16:45 am »

Wow guys! It's nice to see that some of you already knew us.

We are working hard on this one and we hope it will be bigger and even cooler than MechaNika  Hand Metal Left

I'll try to keep a good posting pace and answer any questions. We have lots of things to show but don't know where to begin  Shrug I guess art pipeline can be a good topic, huh?
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« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2016, 04:43:25 pm »

I didn't realize you had another game under your belt. Gonna check that one out for sure!
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pixelmeat
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2016, 09:41:08 am »

I didn't realize you had another game under your belt. Gonna check that one out for sure!

Cool! Sadly you're late for Steam summer sales  :D
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joemusashi
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2016, 10:52:24 am »

I have to play in "a serious way" the first one, but this game seems to be really funny and interesting too Smiley
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2016, 11:07:55 am »

This appeals to me in almost every way. I'm down. Hand Thumbs Up Left
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pixelmeat
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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2016, 08:34:58 am »

Log #2

The Cursor Affair or Deciding how to help the player.

We've been really busy lately. Lots of new art, backgrounds mainly, is being integrated. But the most exciting thing was Gamelab 2016, we attended and we had the chance to show Agatha Knife demo to the public for the first time and get lots of feedback.

We love user feedback, and we're always vigilant for those things that seem to bother more than, let's say, 3 people. As we don't have access to large amounts of testers, number 3 tends to be the number that triggers our UX alarms.

When developing a point & click adventure, difficulty is a very delicate issue. You don't want to disappoint the hardcore players, who don't want to leave a single pixel unclicked, and who expect the puzzles to be challenging and not too obvious. But on the other side, you want newcomers to find it easy to navigate around the world and enjoy this meticulously crafted story line.

From our experience designing MechaNika, our approach to this issue was to highlight interactive items on the screen with a subtle change on the cursor's edge color. You can see it in action here:


We thought that this approach was enough for letting the unexperienced point&click players know where to click and not "too casual" for the hardcore ones. Well, the thing is, more than 3 people didn't even realize that the cursor edge was changing. And that leads to some questions...

  • Should we highlight the interactive items even more?
  • Are we providing a "too easy" experience by doing so?
  • Should we add the option to disable this hints for the experienced players?

We asked some people and we got mixed answers. From our point of view, not all experienced players enjoy having to mechanically click all the elements on screen just to discover which are interactive and which are not. On the other side, there's always the chance to end up with easy to find items and reduce significantly the amount of time that the player spends exploring the environments.

We try to fight the latter by increasing the number of interactive items. Some of these, just add background story or atmosphere to the different spaces, which is something that a lot of players love and enjoy.

So, what do you think about our current highlight system? Would you change it or tweak it? How? Why?  Who, Me?

TL;DR

We like to waste time with our cursor.

We attended GameLab 2016!!


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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2016, 10:03:07 am »

I've only played 2 point-and-clicks (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and Secret of Monkey Island, 3 if you count Kentucky Route Zero). Based on what was fun, and what was frustrating in those two games, here's what I think.

From a casual perspective, I'd probably want objects' clickability to be fairly obvious. Because point-and-click puzzles can be obtuse enough WITHOUT missing important objects, and it's really frustrating to get stuck on a puzzle simply because you literally can't see part of the solution.

The classic adventure games I mentioned both give hints about objects because when the cursor touches an interactive object, it will appear as a noun in the action sentence at the bottom, i.e. "Look at hanging corpse." This is pretty similar to what you're doing with the cursor highlight. The problem is, like your players mentioned, it might be difficult to notice, and beyond that: the player still has to sweep the cursor around the whole screen to test what's clickable and what isn't. So they still might miss something. It could be made more accessible if the objects themselves were highlighted, too.

What you could do to avoid making the player sweep the screen for objects, is add a Hint ability where the player holds down a key to highlight all nearby clickable objects. The hint ability could be unlimited, or you could make it a mechanic where the player can run out if they overuse it. Hardcore players could just avoid using the hint system.

From a hardcore perspective, it was fun having to pick out for myself what was clickable and what wasn't, because the visual language of those classic games involves subtly distinguishing interactive elements from background ones.
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Little Miracles Games
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2016, 02:07:57 am »

Hey! Nice to see you here too guys. We arrived to TIGSource a few days ago :D

On the cursor topic, we've been talking and we are divided too :S. As you may remember we made Entre Línies for the Generalitat and there we did not highlight nothing and it was hard to tell what you can interact to.


Not completely related, in investigation pen and paper RPG's like The Shadow of Cthulhu is said that investigation is not about gathering clues, is about interpreting them. What I want to say is that finding the items has to be easy, where and how use them have not, and maybe is better to highlight the item too, not only the cursor.

PS: Did you see who is in the background in the last photo? Wink
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pixelmeat
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« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2016, 04:40:11 am »

Thanks for your feedback. Let me try to answer,

@Natman
I think we want to be closer to the classic adventures in terms of target audience, and the hint system brings us far from that, and it also could be a problem for the interface design, as we want to keep it as clean as it is now, avoiding extra buttons or the use of the keyboard. On the other side we start to see that highlighting the cursor a bit more, maybe with a brighter or more saturated color, can be a good thing. We'll definitely give it a go and see if we like it.

@Little Miracle Games
That kind of lack of feedback is exactly what we try to fix here. On the investigation topic, I think it's a very interesting concept (interpretation over gathering), but we have lots of interactive items, not only clue or useful items, but also useless items, observable things that give additional content or background info and finally, our personal favorites, those items that are there just for fun XD. We don't want to take away this sense of discovery from the player, so gathering sometimes becomes an important part of the experience. Again, we'll try to find the balance between too easy and cursor grinding.

Thanks again, we'll keep you posted on any decisions on the cursor issue :D
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pixelmeat
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2016, 09:53:14 am »

Log #3

The alternative dialogue system.

Time goes fast and here I am again, today I wanted to talk about the dialogue system we use in Agatha Knife. It's basically a comic bubble where the dialogue lines are displayed. It is almost the same we used for MechaNika, with some internal changes (mainly sequence and options management improvements) that the player won't notice. It is different from the traditional SCUM dialogue system that most adventures emulate, but we keep some of its features such as fast skipping the lines when the player clicks.

When Agatha decides to talk to someone, her lines and the npc's will appear inside white round-cornered bubbles, as you can see here:


The player can skip from one line to the next and make the whole text visible without having to wait for it to appear just by clicking anywhere.

The key part of the system, though, is the option navigator. That's what the player uses to choose what to say at some points during the conversations, if you had to answer a yes/no question, the option navigator would be the tool to choose the one you like. Let me show it to you in action:


As you can see, the options are shown inside a cloud shaped bubble, and the player selects an option by navigating with the arrows. We wanted to link with the comic once more, using the iconic thought bubbles typical from that format. But here's where we have found some issues. It seems that some people does not understand the cloud with the arrows as an invitation to explore dialogue options. They just think it's some kind of internal monologue, so they scroll to the last option and choose it. The last option is always the one that Agatha uses to end conversations, so these players just don't have a conversation with anyone, making it impossible to progress in the game. They are few, but we'd like to know if this situation can be easily avoided. Suggestions accepted Tongue

You may also have noticed that the option that Agatha is thinking does not correspond exactly with what she says once the option has been selected. That's because we want to make the process feel real, as almost no one tells exactly what they think when it comes to expressing ideas. Additionally, the system uses different dialogue lines if the player chooses the same option more than once. This way, we give the player more information and try to avoid the sensation of repetition by mistake.

That's what I like and what I don't about the dialogue system:

Pros

  • Innovative, a good fit for our visual style
  • Simple, feels clean and lets us fill all the screen space with assets
  • People feel familiar with the comic style
  • It can handle multiple character conversations

Cons

  • Some people find it hard to understand the "thoughts as speaking opitons" mechanic
  • There's no way to know what dialogue branches have already been used
  • It can be frustrating if you choose an option by mistake, because you have to go through all the lines again, and sometimes there are lots of lines in a conversation branch

We have some ideas on how to fight the cons, but we really would appreciate to hear about yours or any questions you may have.

TL;DR

We don't have a standard point & click dialogue system.

The dev team is gonna grow soon! YAY!  Beer!

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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2016, 11:46:07 am »

This sounds really interesting and I love the art style. Following!
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« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2016, 09:02:44 am »

Log #4

The custom art pipeline.


Time to talk about our art pipeline. Let's start by explaining why we are not following the usual steps that any common art department would be. The thing is that Mariona, our art director, comes from the analog world artistically speaking. She's worked with all sorts of paint, crafted many kinds of merchandising, sewn her own designed clothes and even worked as a candy maker. That's why her art style is so analogish. And we considered that this uniqueness needed to be preserved for Agatha Knife as we did with MechaNika. But we also wanted the advantages of digital concept process. So, how to combine both?

This is the pipeline we came up with to be able to keep Mariona's style as much intact as possible in the final digital game:

  • Step 1 -Idea- All the art is based on original stories based on the Psychotic World that the team comes up with.
  • Step 2 -Concepts in paper (Yes, paper!)- Mariona creates the concepts by hand, focusing on style, and mood more than in polish level. Things are pretty low-tech. All the concepts are drawn in tracing paper using technical pens. This paper is used to make the traditional animation process easier. Once the background designs are on paper, all the props and characters are added in separate paper sheets respecting scales.



  • Step 3 -Scan- Files are scanned so the hand drawn lines prevail.
  • Step 4 -Digitalizing the drawings- Once scanned and back in Photoshop, some defects on the lines are corrected and some are left there in purpose to stress the handcrafted effect. Colors are applied.



  • Step 5 -Layers and pieces- That's the step where the design department "steps in" ( Sad sad pun). Depending on the particular backgrounds or character animations, we must decide what can be fused with the background, what should be a standalone asset or if any assets can stick together for optimization reasons.



  • Step 6 -Animate!- All the characters are animated frame by frame in traditional style with an intended low frame rate.



  • Step 7 -Export and Import- Strict naming rules are applied for the png sprites. This allows us to take advantage of libGDX packing algorithms and generate optimized atlas that will later be imported into the game and placed in the world coordinates.



  • Step X -Fixing problems- Obviously, we hunt and fix every mistake during any of the steps. Sadly, some art has to be redone from scratch. We cry a lot when this happens.

Aaaaaaand, thats how we do it. We know it's not the best pipeline, but we've polished it a lot with practice and it's more optimal than it seems. It also gives our games a unique coat of craftsmanship that's hard to find elsewhere. And after all it's our pipeline and we love it with all its defects :D
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2016, 09:54:08 am »

Great post. Didn't know you were using LibGDX. I used to, but I stopped 'cause I don't like Java very much.
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ProgramGamer
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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2016, 09:59:02 am »

Hey, this was a super interesting post, because this process of "digitize your drawings and then fix the most glaring issues but preserve some artifacts" is something I've experimented with myself! I have to say that you have it down way better than me though. Looking forward to more art posts, that was fun to read.
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pixelmeat
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« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2016, 12:59:28 am »

@ProgramGamer

Yes, we'll be posting more art content for sure, but as long as the pipeline is concerned, I think this is pretty much it Wink Anyway, we'll try to come up with any other art workflow we think is worth showing.
On the other side, what was your pipeline when you tried to digitalize your own art yourself?

@Nathy

Yes, LibGDX was the weapon of choice of our programmer when he decided to create the engine from scratch  Who, Me?
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2016, 07:13:39 am »

Lovely game, I liked it a lot when I tried it on Gamelab 2016.
Interesting art workflow, specially for animations, the overall art style is cute and funny but traditional made animations are what I like the most.

Regarding the dialogue system, I like the idea though as you say I remember it being confusing. However, I see that white circle between arrows, and I was thinking if it could be some use and serve as a selection button instead of clicking on the bubble, or maybe when you are reading between thoughts if you can see two small bubbles next to the one you are reading, so the player can understand there are alternative options. Other idea I am thinking about is some sort of feedback that shows the player you are thinking between different options, related to Agatha's indecision, for example a little text near the bubble which says something like "Should I say this?" "Or maybe this one?". I think the only way to know it these ideas work would be to try them, but I hope they are of some help.

Loking forward to see more, I will follow this thread.
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