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1398449 Posts in 67594 Topics- by 60944 Members - Latest Member: rashwinbarwa

January 28, 2022, 02:57:29 AM

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Otres1
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« Reply #620 on: January 07, 2022, 07:05:36 AM »

Just skimmed through this whole devlog. And really impressive work with your own engine. And the watercolored shader style is looking really cool!
Being able to freely rewind, and play out events was something I also was having in mind when I began my own project (Orten was the case), but found it too complicated for me.

But the timeline stuff and how and why events play out is similar problem solving, and really inspiring to read about!
Keep it up, it looks very promising!
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #621 on: January 08, 2022, 07:41:18 AM »

Thank you!! Kiss
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oldblood
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« Reply #622 on: January 10, 2022, 05:05:50 AM »

Just a quick note to say I hope 2022 is the best year ever for Ao. Glad you're still pushing this amazing project along!
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ChrisLSound
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« Reply #623 on: January 10, 2022, 08:01:19 AM »

Looking good! Time away from a big project like Ao is surely a good thing, especially when you're doing A L L of it yourself. Thankfully you have that flexibility to just step away. Nonetheless, it's great to see more updates from you! It looks to me like you've accomplished more than you're giving yourself credit for  Smiley Hand Thumbs Up Right

It's fun seeing some of your written descriptions of scenes in motion, and those capsule characters are very amusing. With a little squish in the jumps, it'll enter VeggieTales territory :x
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #624 on: January 11, 2022, 03:12:14 AM »

Thank you two! I hope so too. It remains a slow but steady project. Wondering if I might hit a threshold eventually where things start snowballing a bit, once there is enough to go off of. And I guess I'll be successful story-wise if I manage to convey some emotion even with VeggieTales-looking characters Tongue
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #625 on: January 12, 2022, 03:11:20 AM »

Making things up as fast as I can as I go along in true game jam fashion while working on the prototype, trying to get things done yet still not making a complete mess of things that will make further quick iteration—the whole point of this—really cumbersome…

For one: everything is an NPC!





I'm currently working on the end of the timeline (that's where the first memory/tutorial puts you) but I don't really know how long the whole thing is going to be yet so I'm just inserting it at the beginning at the moment. The important thing is to keep timing between events correct relative to each other.

Since all the events are just hand-scripted, I don't want to have to update things in a bunch of places when I need to move stuff or insert more before them, so I just made a list of constants like where every following value is offset from the one before it:



These are kind of the same as in my spreadsheet, where I have a column for "major events" to do basically the same thing; I might not know the absolute time of anything, but I do know if a character's actions need to happen before or after one of these.



So most recently I needed to add the boat into Unity, so I just inserted the new constant and made the wave (flood) start be offset from that, and automatically anything that was scripted to happen after that using the constant got pushed forward 30 seconds instead of now coïnciding with the boat, e.g. this character who currently doesn't have anything to do before then:

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #626 on: January 12, 2022, 04:05:33 AM »

Quote
For one: everything is an NPC!
Hey, that hack is a long-standing tradition in the gamedev community and we're proud of it!
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baftis
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« Reply #627 on: January 12, 2022, 04:49:10 AM »



For one: everything is an NPC!



Well, isn't that particularly familiar Smiley)
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #628 on: January 12, 2022, 07:21:09 AM »

Very much reminded me of the story I heard of the train being a hat in a Fallout game. Reading up on it now, apparently it's actually a glove? And more fun in this Reddit thread I found (I especially liked the raycast by apple).

I think it would make sense to just rename the concept of an NPC to a "schedulable" in all my files/code back in the real engine, as that's all they really are. It's just any actual NPC will also have an "identifiable" (for photography and """AI""" to recognise entities of some description) and an "interactable" (for listening/talking in their case, but can also be to read a sign or open a door etc.) component, and of course a matching 3D model. Cheesy
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #629 on: January 12, 2022, 07:34:54 AM »

You're basically halfway into describing a type system, hahaha
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #630 on: January 12, 2022, 11:07:00 AM »

Yeah Tongue
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diegzumillo
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« Reply #631 on: January 12, 2022, 04:06:41 PM »

Really digging your rapid prototyping! that spreadsheet thing, is it for your own organization or will you actually save it as an xml and load it into the game? that might be an easy way of tweaking timing of events that you can even reuse with your original/intended engine!
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #632 on: January 13, 2022, 02:38:52 AM »

Yay! Spreadsheet is just notes, so it's not in a computer-friendly format unfortunately.

I did consider something like that, but after adding stuff in practice into Unity, I think I want an editor tool that's a bit like an animation suite instead. This is almost filmmaking so it would be helpful. Nothing fancy, just a GUI version of the scripted schedule format and a way to play things back in the editor without starting the game fully so I can iterate immediately. c:
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« Reply #633 on: January 15, 2022, 03:55:47 PM »

Maybe spoilery stuff here but this is related to the tutorial so I think it'll be hard to keep out of the thread.



Capsules are staying, but you can get a lot of extra mileage out of eyes and brows! Possibly mouth later too. Just like adding hairstyles is important to the mechanic of telling people apart, expressions might also be useful to gameplay and not just a visual thing.



Will be getting close to tying the game loop up once you can start doing something with the "photos" and taking them to your companion character.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #634 on: January 16, 2022, 12:30:19 PM »

Careful, you might end up giving us the same issue the early Wobbledog fans had with having trouble of letting go of the original "thousand yard stare creepypasta" wobbledog-design Wink
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Alain
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« Reply #635 on: January 17, 2022, 01:18:23 AM »

I highly approve of the eyes and brows :D
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vdapps
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« Reply #636 on: January 17, 2022, 07:21:04 AM »

Those cute characters can make for a separate game! Kiss
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #637 on: January 18, 2022, 06:53:34 PM »

Cheesy Glad you all like them! I'll probably remedy the stare with some automatic blinking. Tongue



48

Tutorial

Believe it or not, but you're getting a numbered update again! It's a long one, but if you're interested, you're finally getting some of those old questions on how this game is even going to play answered in a fair amount of detail, in the form of an outline of how the game itself might teach you its mechanics in the beginning! Smiley

Design doc

In addition to my spreadsheet, I have three more dev tabs with a permanent spot in my browser. One of them (in)famous design docs is there too. For me that's actually the briefest of the lot, and not the huge thing some master docs can be. I only put things I'm sure of in there to make it easy to get a quick reminder, not including the story which lives in its own file. Headlines with a paragraph each, describing a major mechanic or concept. And the flowchart I made that time.

Today I added a whole page to this previously two-page document. It was time to really figure out once and for all how to introduce the player to the game, while weaving it into the story and making it feel as non-gamey as possible. I'll be implementing it into the Unity prototype over the upcoming days, but in the meantime I'd love some feedback on the ideas! Smiley

Teaching mechanics, pt. 1

I don't want to teach the player everything all at once (i.e. during the first "time travel") but spread it out a bit to give you some freedom to play with the initial mechanics before learning the rest, and with most of it being organic for immersion's sake and skippable not to annoy returning players, but without confusing newcomers.

Before I go into the details, here are the things I want to clue you in on during this initial segment of the game:

  • Testimonies: "time travel" by listening to a witness account.
  • Time control: rewind, fast forward, pause, slow down, "keyframes".
  • Inquisition: focus on details ("photos"), get info from witness.

1. First foray into the past

As previously shown, you'll meet the town's coordinator almost as soon as you step off your boat and into the town, and be led to the place that'll serve as your base of operations for the rest of the game.



In there you'll talk (with better writing than this) and fade into the coordinator's account of the very end of the evening (so not the whole cycle yet):



As you can see, the player character is not visible in the past. I haven't decided exactly how to deal with free roaming yet, but regardless you'll be able to "lock on" to characters and move with them, which is what you'll probably be restricted to at this point either way, coordinator being the initial target.

2. Keyframe commentary

At this point, time pauses and a speech bubble representing the coordinator in the present providing commentary on this account of theirs will pop up. Not like the in-world ones coming from characters in 3D space, but a disembodied bigger one with an avatar of the storyteller. They'll tell you about what's going on at this point in the timeline (funeral ceremony for the person now being set to sea in the burning boat).



These are the sorts of points you'll have little markers for on your timeline and be able to go back to, but not yet.

3. Examination

Time ticks for a little bit and the boat moves along, but not too far; the body inside remains within view, albeit wrapped up in a cloth. At this point, time freezes again and the "photo camera" interface pops up along with a speech bubble from the player character asking whose funeral it was, who's in the boat. Your only available action here is to snap a photo of the body. You then get a reply, and the "photo" along with the info gets added to your mental notes.



4. Fast forward

You exit examination mode and time resumes. The boat travels some more before another speech bubble from the coordinator  tells you that not a lot happened for a bit, and you get to fast forward ahead until the dam breaks and the flood begins after another keyframe commenting on it. After this events play out until the end of the timeline, where you may fast forward if you wish. You can't miss anything important, because some more keyframes along the way will still halt you in the most important moments, and you'll have full time control of the whole thing afterwards anyway.

You exit the past view, and find yourself once more visible back with the coordinator in the present timeline...

Teaching mechanics, pt. 2

  • Present timeline: moving around the non-past town.
  • Past timeline: the rest of the time controls.
  • Deduction: analysing "photo" details to make conclusions.
  • Progression: using conclusions to find new witnesses and learn more of the past.

Now it's time to let you loose in the ruined version of the town, or the "overworld" as I find myself referring to it as even tho it's the same place as in the past. Cheesy Coordinator asks you, since you have your gas mask, to see if you can find anybody out there, while they recover from the daze of the noxious air outside. Player control is restored.

5. Companion character

Coordinator is now your "companion", a mechanically meaningful concept in the game. They're your hint function when you get stuck, as talking to them will point you in the right way while serving as narratively meaningful conversation at the same time. They leave the house for short stints to help you out once you do figure something out by exploring the past, and know exactly where to take them.

6. Roaming

You're now free to move around town in its post-flood state. Ruins and water hinder your progress beyond the square and the docks where you arrived for now. You can look around but will not find anybody you can help. Talking to your companion will yield a hint to think things through and if anything the coordinator could remember was helpful.



7. Fully exploring the past

Throughout this you'll have access to revisit the witness account you heard at any time as soon as you return to the present for the first time. A thought bubble from the player character will pop up, saying something like "let me go over this again", and having already learnt about fast forwarding, the HUD itself should be enough for you to understand going backwards, pausing, setting the speed and so on, as the correct input to press will be visible next to all of the icons, all along the top of the screen.



At the bottom will be your timeline, with markers at the aforementioned keyframes, and dedicated input for jumping between these as well (e.g. gamepad might bind left and right triggers to winding backwards and forwards, with the corresponding shoulder buttons above for the keyframes). There won't actually be an exact digital clock as seen in the devlog; that's always just been for me while working on the game.

It'll be less intrusive than the mockup, and togglable.

8. Making connections

You'll also have access to your stored details, those "photos", on some subscreen. I'll work out the details later, but I think it'll be fairly freeform for you to organise things in your own way. For now one function is important: "combining" or "comparing" photos to make connections that can be presented to your companion. Details to be decided on, but you'll learn this in the UI when you actually go check out this menu.



(one of my earliest tests, in 2D)

9. Progressing

You'll use this function to make a connection that leads you and your companion to realise the likely location of a person. The coordinator sets out to this location and won't wait for you with the limited time given by the air. You'll have to follow. To combat that ol' ludonarrative dissonance I won't let you actually let them wait for you, either by fading to black and starting a cutscene once they get there, or by just making you following them a cutscene or a jumpcut as well, not sure yet, but I don't want to remove player control more than necessary. Input welcome! Smiley To be clear, this is a mechanic, and connections will be confirmed by the game in the form of a new "item" of some sort that you can present to your companion.

Teaching mechanics, pt. 3

  • Past timeline: non-locked navigation and access to the full timeline.
  • Confrontations: "combining photos" to find discrepancies to ask about.

The second character that you found is now with you in your underground base, recovering. After confirmation that they're okay, and some story-forwarding conversation (there's story progression in the present timeline as well, eventually converging on the past timeline with certain events between milestones), you get their witness account, now from the very beginning of the timeline that you'll have access to throughout the game. This is earlier in the evening, some time before the sunset.

10. Multiple witness accounts

Now you'll be able to swap between accounts, revisiting either that of this character or that of the coordinator.

11. Free roaming

You'll also get to move freely around the past now, not just staying locked to your witnesses, and will discover those time bubbles if you stray too far away from the focal point of the account you're exploring, as information is lacking in these spots and will need to be filled in by other characters. Things will flicker away, and perhaps at least the first time you do this, a speech bubble will explain to you that you haven't learnt about that place/time yet.



Not sure how the character will look in this state, but probably ghostly, transparent, not quite there, and then when you lock on to someone you swoosh into them like a spirit, keeping some of that flair from the original idea for the game, eh?

12. Confrontations

In this new account, mainly taking place on the square by the fountain, where this character sat feeding birds, you'll soon see the coordinator's past self just out of earshot entering the square, moving about, probably highlighted by one of those keyframe speech bubbles from the bird feeder to clue you in on the fact that you can "take a picture" of the coordinator, and perhaps the bird feeder's speech even encouraging you to ask the coordinator (in the present) themselves what they were doing or saying.

Now you can ask them, and unlock the rest of their account of the full timeline too.

Following this, probably again highlighted by a keyframe speech bubble just to teach you the first time, you'll find a discrepancy between the account the bird feeder gave you and the account that the coordinator gave you of something that happened on the square, just so you can take a snapshot of each version, compare them in that UI thingy, and confront one of them about it to move things along.

Then you're fully free to use these tools to figure out the rest of the game, more or less!

Done

Wow, this post was incredibly lengthy! I'm getting to bed way later than I was supposed to. But I feel good about getting this out. There were still a few things I hadn't fully considered while I started writing this, so you're my rubber ducks; thank you very much! Grin



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vdapps
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« Reply #638 on: January 19, 2022, 09:57:05 AM »

I see that you have it well thought. Gentleman

By reading through your post, I like how story is building along with teaching game mechanics. Not just player will learn important functionality, but something intriguing will happen as well at the same time. This is great way for tutorials.
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« Reply #639 on: January 19, 2022, 10:00:38 AM »

This is fantastic and chock full of great ideas.
  • Your strong, easily-identifiable visual character design (even with capsules!) is great for making it clear when you're stepping into someone's flashback/re-telling.
  • The dialogue boxes with character portraits are a great way of differentiating from the 3D space dialogue.
  • Regarding the first re-telling from the coordinator: giving some dead time (sorry) with "not a lot happened for a bit", then an input prompt for FFWD is a brilliant way to teach that!
  • Keyframes that interrupt FFWD/RWD are another great idea.
  • Using the coordinator as a hint system is good. It's logical that you'd go to them if you're stuck, since they immediately present themselves as someone who's sort of "in charge". (edit: they're also the only other person you've seen at that point!)
  • I'm a big fan of your thoughts on how the player character should look while in the past.

Here are some questions that came to mind:
  • When you make a correct connection in the “stored details” subscreen, you get some sort of confirmation, meaning it’s impossible to bring incorrect info to the coordinator -- right?
  • Is it possible to find people in the overworld just by wandering around in the present, or will they always be behind some sort of obstacle that you need the coordinator to help with? If the former, would you be able to tell the coordinator about it even without having made a connection in the subscreen?
  • I imagine players might find something they think is a discrepancy but isn’t really. Will they somehow be able to present that false discrepancy to characters, or will there be a more obvious “Discrepancy Get!” moment prior to presenting it?

Regarding when the coordinator is ready to fetch a person: What if they gave you an "I'm ready" / "Hold on a minute" dialogue option? Then, when you say you're ready, it would just be a cutscene walk. Maybe even a force-follow where you can still move the camera around? Also, this whole thing might still be a bit ludonarrative dissonancey if you wait for a long time to say you're ready while the person is out there dying...

Random idea that might not make any sense in the design. If someone is speaking but is out of earshot, what if you showed faint speech bubbles with garbled-looking text, but as you get within earshot, it becomes clearer? It could also serve as a nudge towards "maybe I should talk to that person in the present".


This is a super exciting update! I can absolutely see and feel the game through it!
« Last Edit: January 19, 2022, 12:10:19 PM by ChrisLSound » Logged

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