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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsSci-fi espionage interactive novel (Project 5, 2018)
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Author Topic: Sci-fi espionage interactive novel (Project 5, 2018)  (Read 1719 times)
HuvaaKoodia
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« on: September 23, 2018, 02:16:25 PM »

Project 5 out of 5 has begun.

An interactive novel in the science fiction genre about espionage, time and change
« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 07:27:06 PM by HuvaaKoodia » Logged
HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2018, 01:34:10 PM »

Productive stream. Combined multiple ideas for an initial, open-ended design. Will flesh it out in the next two weeks.

Editing took 4.5 hours, but I did shave off 45 minutes from the original 2 hours so it was worth it.



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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2018, 12:41:06 PM »

18 pages full of random ideas, budding world design and even some test prose.

Ideas so far:
- 3 planets/societies
- 3 different alien species (considerable physical and mental variance)
- Universal system of time
- Blackmarket space station
- Agent gear concepts

Certain things are still unclear:

- What to do with the missions. How specific should they be?
- Which mission types to go with? Corporate espionage is simple in comparison to inciting rebellion.
- Allowing the reader to choose the species of the agent? Multiples the amount of writing when it comes to certain events, but would be really cool!
- Conflict? Peace would be easier than war which causes massive changes in the societies. Gotta choose my battles so to say.

Itching to get to programming already, but I will stick to the plan to see how it goes. A whole lot of ideas are going to work themselves out if I just give them time to incubate... I believe.

Just a warning. There are not going to be any images in this devlog until I get to the prototype stage in a few weeks and even then it will be nothing but screenshots of text in a fancy font!

Cheers.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2018, 12:08:17 PM »

40 pages in 4 days. Not bad? I really don't know, not enough experience writing prose (and in programming less is better).

Decided that the missions will be just as specific as the other parts, the preparations will take a backseat. Think very standard choose your own adventure stuff with less inventory management. Yes, structurally similar to those story trees I dissed so in the design stream. The overall structure is a custom day cycle which skips forward in time if nothing important is going on. That's the plan at least.

I'm trying to keep the content amount low of course. Thinking of 3 planets, 15 missions, 6 friends (each with multiple events), and 20-40 world events (random flavor about the world, that is). The numbers are subject to change of course; these sound doable based on what I managed to do this week. Hopefully the process gets faster too.

I've noticed that I get from 2 to 4 hours of creative writing hours out of the day; the rest, not so much. I'll restructure the schedule and start programming already next week. Writing in the morning, programming in the evening; should be more effective.

Cheers.
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nathy after dark
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2018, 01:30:42 PM »

I'll keep an eye on this project!
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2018, 12:02:57 PM »

I'll keep an eye on this project!

Great! I promise there is something to see next week.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2018, 02:27:39 PM »

First 4 hours on design and prose as before, 6 more pages (I like the pages per day metric for progress!). Actually started the day by creating an asset list for all the prose and events I need, but that didn't take long.

While plotting down the numbers I was reminded of the themes again, time and change, which further solidified the focus for the logic side of the project; I'm not making a simulation here, but rather a story. Regardless of the reader's choices these themes should come about on some level.

I could force moving from planet to planet by reducing the amount of mission and as an offset increase the amount of world events and flavor text, which are easier to come up with by the looks of it. Not all missions need to be very complicated either, some can be very mundane with but a few choices.

Evening technical talk then. Was supposed to get to programming already, but sometimes unforseen issues crop up.

The interactive prose system I'm basing this project on is the one used in Alchemy and Appraisal about a year ago. The text is rendered using the TextMeshPro plugin which has great support for many features including hyperlinks, the reason I chose it to begin with. Problem being its custom font asset generator tool, an absolute requirement, does not work on Linux.

A Windows virtual machine would solve the issue, but I didn't bother with the setup as another option came up: my older laptop sporting Windows 7! It is annoying having to use two PCs, but it's not like I have to keep changing the font every other day.

The custom data files processed by the prose system are much easier to edit with syntax highlighting and, sure enough, I made a Notepad++ highlights file for this express purpose back in the day. Unfortunately Notepad++ has no native Linux version...  Fortunately the Wine version functions just fine! I'm of course interested in hearing about free Linux text editor alternatives with custom highlighting support if they exist, neither Xed or NotepadQQ have such a feature.

Proper programming tomorrow starting with implementing the initial intro chapter and hopefully the day cycle too.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: October 02, 2018, 01:43:12 PM by HuvaaKoodia » Logged
Mochnant
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« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2018, 11:50:47 AM »

I'll be following along with interest!
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2018, 01:11:58 AM »

I'll be following along with interest!

Cool, hopefully the project won't disappoint.

Was supposed to post yesterday, but the technical woes continued until the wee hours of the day. More exciting jargon to follow soonish.
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Devilkay
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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2018, 05:48:31 AM »

strange project.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2018, 01:53:36 PM »

Continued the ~5 pages per day pace. Trying to write shorter missions and events without exception leads into longer form prose once the inspiration strikes. Been able to come up with a variety of scenarios, for instance: a mission tailing a target which can turn into a chase; climbing the highest tower of the city on an off day; and meeting an informant, a simple deal evolving into a battle of sorts.  

Solid progress on the programming side once I finally cleared the latest problems, more on those later. The intro mostly functions, I still need to implement an input field for the agent name, and keywords can be clicked for an encyclopedia entry on the topic! I can hide important information in there instead of trying to combine it with the prose. This helps with communicating ideas while the plot itself stays non-linear.

First screenshot then:


The font is a quick, temporary and generic sci-fi pick; it will change in the far future.

OK, to the technical jargon then. Feel free to zone out if this isn't your thing.

Everything worked just fine with the old DLLs from AAA. The interactive prose system is divided into 4 libraries for reasons of portability and cleanliness. The code needs to be modified for this project, of course, and an innocuous enough adjustment later everything broke.

Unity, by default, consumes at most .Net 3.5 assemblies. For some time now Mono has not supported 3.0 or 3.5 anymore, which threw me into dependency hell trying to downgrade the Mono version from 5.x to 3.12 or so. No dice, even a total wipe and purge did not resolve the issue, the newest version stands.

Next possibility, use the experimental Unity .Net 4.x equivalent setting. Rebuilt the DLLs with 4.5 and they worked! A shallow victory as another issue cropped up: VSCode intellisense (via Omnisharp) broke, cannot find 4.71 assemblies. Oh, bother! Monodevelop does not do debugging in Unity no more it seems, so ditching VSCode altogether isn't much of a possibility.

This time switching to the Win 7 PC would have been too bitter a pill to swallow. Last alternative I could think of... revert the libraries down to .Net 2.0. I actually remember this specific though crossing my mind previously during some other string of unfortunate Mono/.Net issues, but this time I went through with it! In practice had to rewrite a few LINQ function calls as foreach loops, not a biggie after all.

Back in business. No more headache inducing setup steps, I hope upon hope...

strange project.
I will take that as a compliment and try to make it even stranger!

Cheers!
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 01:19:09 AM by HuvaaKoodia » Logged
HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2018, 12:33:41 PM »

Nothing but prose implementation today. Second draft basically, changing things to make them fit; that's the plan for the whole week. I do like this part in text based projects. Individual "chapters" are mostly independent and testing them is a charm; jumping straight into any point in the story with any custom variable values.

The upcoming public prototype will include the intro, planet fall, settling in and one mission. Pretty much the same as what the demo will be in the end.

Another screenshot, why not? Also from last week though...


The encyclopedia. Read up!

Taking a long weekend off the project. Friday, Monday and most of Tuesday are not going to be productive. The current progress is strong enough to warrant such a move, and the last project turned out just fine despite similar scheduling shenanigans. Basically, future me will fix the discrepancy once more.

Cheers!
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2018, 12:42:14 PM »

The prototype release might have to wait until next week. The first mission is taking a while as I'm adding development features while I go.

Another reason is an inkling of a flu and, I have to admit, holiday fever (as in, I'm much overdue for one!)

Going to push it tomorrow, both the project and my luck.

The prototype stream will also have to wait, past next week in fact. Then again, there won't be many streams for this project to begin with. What is there to show?

Cheers.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2018, 04:00:08 PM »

The first mission (third mission on planet 2, by design) is about 80% done. It is not very long, some branching, missing the end and a bit of flavour.

Getting the naming conventions right has taken some time again. Had the same issue in AAA, I seem to recall. There is no visual editor for the data objects, which means that a non-linear structure (branching, looping, fuzzy selection) is flattened to a single top to bottom text file of objects (like code in general), rather than a 2D picture (like a flow chart). Easy to make mistakes and hard to spot them without testing the prose in Unity (which is fast enough as previously mentioned).

I could add a simple visualizer which takes all the current objects and makes a map out of them, showing all potential connections between each objects. It would be useful, even if not editable. Could use an opensource node UI library for it; there are many of those out there, although probably not in C# outside of Unity assets.

I'll give the prototype one more day, next week. Hopefully it is releasable at that point, if not then I'll settle with just the stream as I want to get back to writing more prose proper. That is the creative and difficult, due to lack of experience, part in this project. The implementation is nothing but elbow greese a plenty.

Cheers.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2018, 02:33:36 PM »

The holiday is over! Enervating!

The first mission is finished, apart from one additional branch only open to those with special gear. Hooked up the mission briefing, beamed in from the HQ, and mission start events to the day cycle (cycle cycle in the in-world jargon...)

Adding more missions should be faster now. The naming/visualisation headache is still there; will try to find a solution on Saturday.

There are still quite a few Todo chapters (parts? places? events?) and temporary choices. It's a prototype, not a whole demo yet, although I will use the same mission in the demo not to spoil too much!   

Getting late. Will publish it tomorrow. Hopefully no WebGL issues crop up this time.

Cheers!

PS.
Made this in a jam during the holiday weekend with a friend. An excellent use of time, jams; much recommended!
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2018, 05:14:28 AM »

Here it is.

Play Read the prototype here

As promised, pretty barebones. Does get the gist across. What do you think?

Cheers.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2018, 01:44:30 PM »

Fickle thing this inspiration. Today three hours on writing (Planet 1 mission 1 outline and beginning); spent the rest on implementing older prose i.e. monkey work. I do need to automate parts of that.

Friday I had absolutely no creativity, tired due to the erratic rhythm of the past few weeks. Spent a few hours on the same grindstone nonetheless.

The rest of the month will be shaky too when it comes to the schedule. After that, depending on a few things, I might have the last two months of the year for the project or not... I don't like uncertainty.

Unlike project 3, I will finish this one within the year or not. Here I have the skills and know-how, it just takes time.

More on the schedule come Wednesday.

Cheers...
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2018, 05:20:11 PM »

Wrote two scripts to make the prose implementation process easier. The first, more important, script copies a DATA file and then transforms it into an ACTION file by adding in basic variables, types and such. Basically going from this:

Code:
DATA TextName1
"
Some text.
"

Into this:
Code:
ACTION TextName1, TextName
Requirements
TextIndex = 1
Effects
TextIndex+=1
"
Some text.
"

The text is left in the file to make it easier to hook up the actual logic between the ACTION objects. The second script then removes the quotes. Together these two bits of code will speed up the process by leaps and bounds.

Currently writing the first mission for Planet 3. It is about eavesdropping on a private meeting set in a Spa. I've come up with a lot of different branches, for instance, infiltrate disguised as a worker, go in as a guest and break into the private side from the inside, social engineer your way into the meeting itself.

Many options only one of which is going to be seen by someone who reads the novel once... Now I know why some developers aren't too keen on these sort of one-use choices. Lots of work for little gain, except if there are enough readers of course... Something I'm very sceptical of when it comes to this project.

Lastly the schedule then. Very briefly, it is getting pretty late again, it seems I won't have the time for all the prose I've planned out. The task list at least seems rather daunting, taken the recent lapse in productivity. Three extra weeks is all I can afford this year (because the year kind of ends...) and I'm keeping two of them in reserve just in case.

I guess the plan for now on is to complete one mission per planet, as these are the most time expensive events of them all, and then add in everything else. Missions are by design separate from each other so I can easily add more of them later if I have the time. Some of the ideas I've had so far won't work that well with fewer missions, but they are nothing but ideas so not much is lost there.

That should clear things up.

Cheers.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2018, 05:49:06 PM »

Still many small paths to fill in, when it comes to mission 1 of Planet 1. The main branches are there though.

Finished up the first pass of an optional outdoors event on Planet 3. Been slightly distracted this week by unrelated things, as mentioned before, but at least I've got the hours in.

Next week I will implement the first drafts of P1M1 and P3M1, which I wrote earlier. I'll also be writing prose for non-mission related events, such as friends, marketplaces, hobbies, etc. Much more linear prose when it comes to those, a welcome change!

A stream too at some point. Will be the most boring to date!

Cheers.
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HuvaaKoodia
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« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2018, 06:50:57 PM »

3 and a half hours on creative writing. Got a fine idea for one of the friend events on planet 1. It was supposed to be a token competition, a competition in the physical world rather than the virtual, but I switched it into a role playing experience. One of the alien races is very social and they are into these sort of things.

Rest on monkey work, you knew that already.

The stream will be on Friday this week.
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