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Aureus
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« on: May 20, 2019, 10:29:57 AM »

I. Introduction.

Welcome to the first entry in the series of devlogs focused on Roadwarden, an interactive fiction in which you explore and change a hostile, grim realm. It’s a fantasy game, it’s an RPG, a Visual Novel, an adventure game with occasional text parsers... It’s many things. It’s a project I love.

There’s a reason why Roadwarden isn’t restricted by any specific genre and does whatever it needs. I aim to put the quality of the game first. I want it to fulfill its goals, without forcing myself to give up on some features just because they aren’t “pure” from the perspective of a marketing label. Will I succeed? Let’s find out - this (weekly?) devlog will be a fine documentation for the future retrospections.



While I started working on the project in January 2019, mostly reviewing and adjusting my design documents that were already almost one year old, the main game announcement occurred less than two weeks ago. The website is now up, the demo is available, the press kit has the most essential details... The game is now displayed and open to criticism. Sure, it was tested before. The graphics were reworked multiple times thanks to the criticism I gathered on-line. But now I’m playing with an open hand.

And the results are better than I’ve hoped. I received a lot of positive feedback, the people who played the demo send me encouraging words, it genuinely looks like the game has a very strong foundation - what it’s lacking, is content. I’m sure some things can be improved, built upon or are yet going to be removed, but I’m feeling very positive about the road ahead.


II. World map is getting real graphics

One of the main changes that happened right before the official demo release was the introduction of the new graphics for the in-game traveling map.



The huge, out of proportion icons representing the “interactive” parts seem to be easy to spot and don’t blend with the neighboring areas, though it’s something I have to keep an eye on.

The main inspirations for me were the world maps from the Baldur’s Gate series, especially the one from the Shadows of Amn. When I was a kid, I really loved how the visuals allowed to settle an area in a larger context. A very similar type of maps was presented in Pillars of Eternity, and I’m grateful for it.


III. A look at the inside of the Clean Spear castle-tavern

Now that was a rough one. I’ve decided to draw the interiors of my somewhat-famous castle-tavern, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it.



My first try was actually pretty decent. The goal was to make a nice picture within a rather short time. Cutting through the walls and the roof was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t able to add that many details into it, even if the corner in the front was removed. Also, the proportions got a bit crazy, and the second floor was pretty much outside of my reach...

So I’ve decided to take the longer route (which took me pretty much another full day) and I’m very happy about the results.



Since I’m still an amateur, usually when I draw, I spend days making the first few sketches and learning how to make the simple shapes, and after that I make one revision after another... But not this time. I knew exactly that I wanted to make a hybrid of a simple, early medieval castle and of a cozy tavern. It went very smoothly and I had very few fixes to apply. I’m very happy with the results.


IIII. New mid-travel descriptions

A small, new feature is related to the game’s traveling system. I’m not sure if I’m satisfied with the way it looks now, but it’s very smooth and I think it adds a valuable bit of immersive descriptions. From now on, if the player moves from one area to another, they may see bits like the description shown below:



Such small textboxes can be portrayed only when a specific set of conditions is matched. For example, if the player is in an area “Southern Crossroads” and moves to the closest area to the west, they see the description from the box - but only once. However, if they travel there from another area or they visited this place before, the box won’t appear. There’s also a different description linked to the eastern road.

These small boxes are only the very raw template. Their visuals may change, they can involve random encounters, introduce new events... This tool is going to serve me in many ways.


V. Altering descriptions with a new trick

Another small invention is the option to modify parts of the area descriptions based on the randomly set variables.

For example, when the player visits the Clear Spear tavern, a variable guardscleanspearactivity (once again: Guards-Clean-Spear-Activity) is rolled. And it currently has these options on the list:
  • spread across the wall, observing the area
  • practicing close combat with spears, swords and axes on the courtyard
  • sitting at a table and on the stairs, gossiping with mugs of beer in their hands
  • practicing archery and fixing their equipment in the courtyard
  • are nowhere to be found
  • sitting at a table, gambling for apples

So when the player sees a description like this one:
The Clean Spear tavern stands firm. You notice one of the guards nearby the gate, but he doesn’t show any interest in your presence. The gate is currently open, and you can see the other fighters [guardscleanspearactivity].

...the final part of this line is meant to be replaced by the variable’s value.


It should work. And add a bit of colorful illusion.

Of course, there are other parts that influence this description (especially - the time of the player’s arrival), but in general it helps me introduce minor, cute details without making a bunch of completely new descriptions.


VI. It’s over 500!

Suddenly, both the Twitter and Facebook of Roadwarden passed 500 followers / likes. And I have nothing to celebrate it with.

Oops.

I’ll try to make something cool later on, but maybe this tweet will say more than a thousand words:



Thank you for your attention and I hope to see you next week! For now, I want to focus a bit more on writing the new dialogues.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2020, 04:34:40 AM by Aureus » Logged
ChrisLSound
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2019, 08:14:42 AM »

Wow, I adore this. I just played some of the demo, stopping right after sleeping at the camp.

All the choices were interesting.
The writing was colorful and engaging.
The art style/color palette is fantastic.
The music is gorgeous and really lends to the atmosphere.
The mood and energy mechanics are super interesting, and seem like they'll add good depth while feeling like a natural part of the world/story.

Incredible work! I can't wait to continue the demo and follow progress.
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Aureus
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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2019, 09:51:53 AM »

Cheers! : D I even gathered some additional feedback about things that still need to be improved, but I'm not going to jump into it right away - I won't update the demo for a couple of months, but these tips will help me make the game better in the long run. ^^

I really appreciate that not only you decided to download the demo, but also you wrote down your feedback. Thank you!
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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2019, 12:52:10 PM »

I've played about 30 mins so far and it's been brilliant! Looking forward to seeing what else the demo has to offer and will be following dev Smiley.
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2019, 08:28:16 PM »

I've played about 30 mins so far and it's been brilliant! Looking forward to seeing what else the demo has to offer and will be following dev Smiley.

Thank you so much! It's so amazing fore me that there are people who are willing to write down a nice comment about the project or even the demo, it really warms my heart. : )
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2019, 06:11:37 AM »

“An RPG / Visual Novel / text adventure hybrid” is a mouthful - Roadwarden Devlog #02


In her Rock, Paper, Shotgun article, Jay Castello has mentioned:

The game’s genre is purposefully fluid. On (...) Studio’s website, the top frequently asked question says “I can’t figure out what is this game’s genre,” to which they’ve cheerfully replied “Me neither.”

When I mention Roadwarden in my Facebook posts or on Twitter, I usually struggle describing it. I keep saying things like “RPG / Visual Novel / text adventure hybrid”, but it’s not very... marketable. I like to use “interactive fiction”, which is arguably correct and sounds fine, but it doesn’t explain well what the player does in the game.

The main goal of this post is to sink deeper into this topic: how could we label Roadwarden? And what it actually is?

By the way, during the next couple of days I want to update the game’s demo. It’s going to be awesome.



Why am I looking for a label?


Why is the label important? Is it just because it’s convenient for social media ads?

When we categorize a game, we also set up the player’s expectations. If we call a game an endless runner, we make a promise. We claim that it’ll be easy to learn and hard to master, with a very stable pacing, without pointless plot and accessible from your phone. Sure, some endless runners can diverse from this premise or even completely fail at executing it, but making this label is an act of communication. Here is what I have to offer. Are yo interested?

And while Roadwarden fits into various definitions of specific genres, it makes promises that are not as commonly associated with its labels. It has an experimental approach to role-playing. Violence, that’s always plot-related and significant, not grindy. Exploration of a grim, detailed and consistent setting, but not a very heroic one. Dialogues used as the core of the experience, not just a tool. Humble adventures of a regular person in a world that overwhelms it. And I try to avoid common tropes in my story.

And I never ask myself “is it OK to add this new feature? after all, it’s not popular in this genre!”. I add everything that helps me make a better game. I put the experience above the marketing convenience.

A term “video game RPG” is famous for being a very vague label, pretty much impossible to define. It’s one of the most diverse branches of gaming. Every person plays RPGs for different reasons, thou we could probably make a list like 1) a complex story with possible side quests, 2) some character progression (both story-wise and through XP-like mechanics), 3) combat and exploration. If you prefer western games, you’ll probably enjoy 4) having important decisions. And you probably like 5) fantasy, eventually science-fiction with fantasy elements.

Sure, there’s a lot of variety - we have action RPGs, text-based RPGs, tactical RPGs, dungeon crawlers, rouge-likes... It’s really weird that the same label somehow covers The Witcher 3, Undertale, Final Fantasy VI and Wizardry from 1981, yet not Far Cry Primal, but that’s because these games are classified by an objective definition of a genre. We just try to say: “if you like X, you may also like Y. they’re kind of similar”.



Roadwarden as an RPG

When I develop Roadwarden I’m interested in things that most RPGs consider unimportant. And I don’t mean something like “I care about story, and These Other Games are all about combat”! That would be a silly statement. But I put an emphasis on aspects of the story which are often marginalized.

For example, in most RPGs you simply kill things (in self-defense!) and grind XP to get stronger. You can kill 10 packs of wolves and 25 boars and it means absolutely nothing. You’re just overcoming a barrier while trying to get a new level or reach the other side of the forest. Killing these enemies won’t be considered animal cruelty. Won’t destroy the balance of the nearby forests. Won’t starve the villagers. These animals are not Really a part of the story.

In Roadwarden, bandits don’t randomly spawn and die without influencing the plot. They are not some random loot waiting to drop on the floor for the player’s convenience. They have families, friends, goals, story behind them. They don’t want to kill you - they want your stuff. And they’ll try to rob you only if they know you can’t beat them. Without an unfair advantage they wouldn’t put themselves at risk.

In my game, violence means something. Nobody here dreams about it, aside of the most terrible, wicked people. Every death leaves a void, and void should be haunting.

In most RPGs you find a tavern, buy a potion and leave. In Roadwarden you spend 15 minutes talking to the innkeeper, and he’s not there just to give you a quest. He wants to know more about you. He wants to know what news you’re bringing. And if you can be trusted.

Also, potions in this game are rare and have taste. And aroma.

Your character isn’t going to have one hundred thousand coins at the end of the game, nor murder two thousand creatures to save a village inhabited by 30 NPCs. They characters are not waiting for The Chosen One or a master of martial marts that can save them. You’re just someone who tries to change your own life by doing something risky, in a realm that’s filled with people who don’t even know if they want you here.

Your character is a part of the world they live in. And I think most RPGs don’t do a good work reflecting this idea. Immersion should be something more than the constant pursue of better graphics, cinematics and more “freedom”.

So while Roadwarden is still a game that includes combat, trade, exploration, unlocking new abilities and building your character, it’s all put in a new context. And there’s a good chance that a portion of RPG fans wouldn’t be satisfied with something this different. I try to encourage them to take a look... But I don’t want anyone to feel cheated.



Roadwarden as a Visual Novel

Roadwarden may also not be a perfect fit for many Visual Novel fans, even though it involves a lot of narration, descriptions and dialogues supported by limited visuals. Roadwarden has fewer gameplay elements than most RPGs, but way more than most VNs - it even introduces simple survival mechanics.

Also, the story is non-linear - it’s very complex (what doesn’t mean “long”) and modified by how the player moves around the map. Many VNs introduce story branching, but I’m pushing it unusually far. And, of course, Roadwarden has way more choices than most VNs, even though some of these choices are focused on role-playing alone and don’t impact the game’s mechanics.

Not only that, but the visual style and the lack of common tropes that are appealing for the core VN-fanbase can be a big problem. I was even asked a couple of times if my game will involve any romantic relationships. Sure, there are successful VNs that don’t involve porn (VA-11 Hall-A), romance (Ace Attorney), manga-style drawings (Cinders), nor Best Girls (2064), so I’m not saying it’s impossible to make one and prosper. But it’s playing against the odds.

All these things push me into being very careful here, and I usually feel that I should say something like “it’s a Visual Novel, BUT...”



Roadwarden as an adventure game

So let’s make a step back. There’s an argument to be made that Visual Novels are a sub-genre of (or rather, an evolution of) a more interactive label. Here’s how Wikipedia defines the adventure games:

(...) a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving.



That works, doesn’t it? It’s also fair to say that such a definition is very vague and doesn’t even exclude RPGs or games like Half-Life. Quest for Glory series, for example, is usually considered to have “RPG elements” or gets classified as a hybrid of both an adventure game and an RPG.

This vagueness opens adventure games for many subgenres, and Roadwarden graciously falls into a couple of them at once. It has scenes with text parsers, typical for interactive fiction, but its advanced dialogue choices could even categorize it as digital gamebook (CYOA-like). Probably a better option for us is a “graphic adventure game”, since there are Some graphics and few ways to interact with the game - parsers, in-game “buttons”, dialogue choices.

I have a pleasure to be a part of few adventure game communities and there’s usually a small range of titles that are constantly mentioned as the “classic” adventure games. Point & clicks (Monkey Island, Grim Fandango), graphic games with parsers commands (King’s Quest), sometimes games like Myst...

Text adventure games, while accepted, are not really discussed often. And it’s difficult to make silly memes about them, so they are a bit obsolete. However, a group focused specifically on text adventure games really doesn’t care about graphics.

It feels to me like there Should be a spectrum of graphics vs. text, and of visible interface vs. text parsers. But it’s not the case. Text adventures and graphic adventures are almost in different worlds - not because of what they are, but rather because of what communities surround them. And, once again, Roadwarden is in between. It’s not just a hybrid of an RPG and an adventure game, it’s also a hybrid of a text adventure game and a graphic adventure game.



Roadwarden is a hybrid, and that’s not sexy

In conclusion, here are some of the genres that I think are strongly present in Roadwarden:
  • RPG;
  • Visual Novel;
  • text adventure game;
  • graphic adventure game;
  • digital gamebook.

Also, I heard opinions that “it feels a lot like a tabletop RPG”. What makes me happy, since it’s intentional.

Some of my game’s features are not exclusive to any specific genre. All of the labels I’ve listed tend to be story-heavy and support their plot with dialogues (or even narration), often include inventory management, allow you to role-play a protagonist and tend to use fantasy settings. Others, however, are genre specific: parsers, open world exploration, mechanically progressing protagonist, simplified visuals, resource management...

Roadwarden is a hybrid, what means it’s going to have a problem appealing to fans of a specific genre. Yet, at the same time, it’s a game that’s not restricted by its labels - and I don’t think genres should limit our designs. My game can include all the things it needs. It can be unusual, experiment and creatively look for new ways to explore.

I just hope I can earn your trust.

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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2019, 08:57:51 AM »

The Grand Demo Update

The first version of the Roadwarden’s demo has gathered quite a bit of attention. Thanks to all the comments, suggestions and testing, I was able to gather enough feedback to put in some extra time and fix the things that could (and should) be improved, even though I originally planned to jump into all the new content that I have in plans. Writing, mostly.

That doesn’t mean that the version 0.3 has no new content at all - I’d even say that these additions are something that was missing and now provides a much better portrayal of my vision. This demo fairly portrays the gist of what I want Roadwarden to be.

Nevertheless, unless a large bug that’s going to need an instant intervention will be found, I don’t plan to push for version 0.4 in the nearby future. Maybe a month, two months before the game’s release. 

If you haven’t played the demo before, this is the version that I would recommend. In this devlog, I’m going to take a closer look at some decisions and changes that I’ve made.



The Mac version is now available.
Ren’Py
, the engine I’m using, has a built-in build export for Mac systems. Since I don’t have any Macs around, I wasn’t sure how well it’s going to perform. It looks like it works like a dream and the people who tested it had no visible issues. If you find any, please get in touch!

I won’t test any mobile builds for now. It’s going to require resizing all sorts of in-game menus, and I can’t handle this level of boredom for now.



The achievements don’t kill you anymore.
I’m surprised (and relieved) that only one person have encountered this problem. From now on, clicking on the received achievement won’t crash the game. Fixing this took only a minute, but I can’t believe I didn’t notice it earlier.



You can switch the font to a pixel one.
Whenever you want, you can switch between a pixel-artish font (which looks nice) and the regular font (which is easier to read). The regular font is still used by default and I hate the idea of playing with pixel fonts for more than half an hour, but I saw so many questions focused about more “stylish” option that I decided that players should have a choice.



Now you can actually beat the game! (and unlock the worst endings)
Since Roadwarden is going to have a very unusual story structure and is, in some way, an open world game, I expect that not everyone is going to aim for the 100% completion. The player is going to be able to finish the game whenever they want - even in the middle of the tutorial.



Also, they can read a summary of their journey. The summary will get more and more detailed as their playthrough goes on, and its purpose is to let the player quickly remind themselves what they’ve already accomplished and what quests are still open. Hopefully, it will allow me to limit situations when the player finds the game weirdly pessimistic or “too” positive.



To finish the game, you just need to “travel” from the map to the city. I’m still not sure how the related icon should look like. It currently blends in with its surroundings  a bit too much. I consider it to be a WIP.

A cool detail is that the ending you currently receive, which is the “worst” possible one (since you fail all your objectives), is partially related to your character’s main motivation - the one that you have selected during the tutorial. The entire section is still going to need some new graphics, but even now I’m pretty happy with it.

Rolling back works better with various menus (like the map and sleeping menu).
Using a mouse or keyboard to “roll back” when a map or other complex menus are displayed sometimes created issues. From now on, it will only close the displayed menus, without instantly jumping back, what’s going to make the game more stable.



Added new travel descriptions.
Two weeks ago I described the new tool allowing to display short descriptions appearing during the player’s journey from one area to another. They are now present in the demo and work a bit better, since the older pieces of narration are now hidden. Currently, if you’re in the Southern Crossroads and move either to the dolmen or the tavern for the first time, you’ll see new textboxes with bonus descriptions.

This tool will also make random encounters much easier to implement.

Added a couple of options to the dolmen.
Parsers in the dolmen respond to more commands, such as entrance. Also, a small bug involving the secret chamber was fixed - there was a very specific order of choices that would pretty much bug out one of your actions, which is no longer the case.



Pointing at your HP was reworked.
The description of the character’s HP level won’t cover the main box with narration / dialogues and is generally more responsive. Previously, the description wasn’t being displayed when you pointed at the “empty” parts of the heart. Now, the heart is actually not empty at all - the “empty” section is 1/255th of pure black, what means that it’s pretty much an invisible, transparent color.



Fixed some typos and rephrased a couple of things.
The item descriptions from the inventory made me especially angry when I re-read them a couple of days ago. Now I proofread them with a cool mind and rewrote some bits to make them more interesting and cohesive. There were also some typos and awkward phrasing in the dialogues / narration, but probably the main change is the replacement of the player’s choices which included present continues with present simple. Previously, it kept changing between those two, and I think both choices would be decent, but it was important to finally settle on one of them. And the simple sentences tend to be shorter, what plays a difference when we take into consideration thousands of choices.



Added “locked” areas to make it easier to notice when the demo ends.
Just a small thing made for the sake of the demo. Some people were confused when they reached all the areas and weren’t sure if there’s anything else they can do. I think this will make it clear.
-----------------------------------

I’m currently sick and overwhelmed with outside-of-development issues, but the future looks bright. See you soon!
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2019, 10:06:22 AM »

Rest up.

Development should always come second to health, no matter how wonderful the project - and this combines all of my favourite genres, so.
Nobody who sticks with design does so solely because of success, or the dream of the success.
Rest up - and I'll be looking forward to more Roadwarden news on your return!

(Seriously, this is amazing! Decided to bookmark the itch, since it looks to be what'll be most updated..?)
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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2019, 10:44:18 AM »

Thank you for kind words! When I was really tired and defeated by a weirdly tough case of common cold I played one of my favorite childhood games - Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim. It really allowed me to relax for a bit. : )

Yes, aside of my FB / Twitter I mostly update the Itch.io. I really like their interface. ; )
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« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2019, 05:02:24 AM »

What I’m looking for

I want you to become a traveler in a land where roads are hostile and beyond control. Here, humankind is week and disorganized, while monsters and trees are deadly and mysterious. We’re are just a small part of this world and we have to fight to survive - not with one another, but with the nature itself. And no hero will ever be able to change that. You have to accept the “howling wilderness”. That’s what you were taught since you were a little kid.

Yet you’ve become a roadwarden. You keep moving between isolated points of light - taverns, hamlets, shelters. You deliver messages, look for missing people, help merchants, gather news. Sometimes you fight, but you can’t jump at a pack of wolves with a pointed stick. You don’t conquer, you use wit, tricks, distance to stay alive. Every foe is stronger than you - but you like to think you’re smarter.

Every roadwarden is different and has their own reason to take this job. The call of adventure, good coin, the feeling of duty... For some reason, you can’t just stay at home and fade away. Unlike most people, you’re ready to take a leap of faith and risk it all.

I want you to get to know your palfrey, the smell of its hair and the stinging in your legs after days of riding. The taste of rations that you take just in case, counting every nut and fruit in your leather bag. The sounds of busy forests, filled with life and blood. When you see something dangerous, I want you to to touch the handle of your axe. When you see shapes among the trees, I want you to keep asking what it is - a deer, goblins, undead? Do you need to run away? After all, that’s why people avoid travels - every journey may be the last one.

When you arrive to a new village, it feels different than any other place in this realm. The huts around you may be humble, but they’re the result of determination of generations of dreamers, who tried to tame the untamable. The people here are busy with their lives, happy to exchange news, not that interested in making friends. Some of their clothes are colorful but simple, some of them are elegant, but old, brought here from a distant city. Their apples are weirdly green, the palisade could use some work, some of the doors were recently replaced. You sit at a table with the mayor and the priestess, and your beer is more than just “tasty, strong ale”. This mug is now containing a tale, years of one’s passion and experience. It’s unique. Like everything here.

You’re entering a place filled with stories, but stories that are often beyond you, outside of your reach. This is not your playground. You’re an outsider, and people can go on with their lives without you. There are no chosen ones, no saviors. Be useful, or begone.

But you don’t have to serve them. You need to choose who’s trustworthy, who’s an ally you need, when should you intervene, and when it’s better to keep your distance. You know that you can’t help everyone, but to reach your goals, you can’t always stay aloof from people who know this place better than you do.

No matter what you decide, be vigilant.

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« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2019, 05:37:58 AM »

Waking up with a head full of ideas

I need to say a few words about my recent lack of updates. Multiple issues, unrelated to the game, forced me to take a couple of weeks off. It doesn't mean I haven't made any progress whatsoever, it's just that there wasn't really time to handle full-time development and combine it with social media presence. Now I'm back on Twitter and Facebook, where you can find more WIP updates and other stuff, including worldbuilding prompts and ideas.

My main task right now is to finish all the writing related to the Clean Spear - the Roadwarden's first tavern, and pretty much the one human settlement that's the easiest one to reach at the beginning of the game. Next week, I'm going to have an in-detail dive into all the work that goes into the design of such an area and some of the core scenes related to it.



Writing allowed me to take a closer look at some problems that Roadwarden struggles with. All video games have to value communication between the game and the player, and sometimes it's difficult to realize when the information flow gets a bit muddy.

And this is what this devlog is going to be about - the new features and experiments that allow me to communicate information more efficiently.



Fixing an animation bug

Previously, when the player's ability (Force, Spell, Knowledge) had an option to unlock a new dialogue choice, an animation was supposed to show up. And I was sure it's working fine. Now I know that even in the game's demo the said animation was not displaying itself all the way through.

I figured out what was the cause of the bug, but I've also heard the players' feedback. Apparently, it's not always clear when the Attitudes become interactive. The simple change of color palette was not enough.

So the GIF above shows an example of how the new notification looks like. And if it's related only to a skill (the 6th icon), it works only for the selected image. It's much easier now to spot the new options.

I'm not saying this is the cleanest, best animation possible or that it won't be fully replaced in the future by something fancier. But the tech is now there. ; )



“Inactive” choices

From now on, I have an option to display new, “gray” choices as if they are present, yet inactive. But before we go any further, let's talk for a bit about the Hit Points.



HP in Roadwarden is a big deal. The game doesn't automatically end when you drop to 0 HP, and it's difficult to “heal” your character. Healing takes time, money or failing some sidequests. (There's going to be, for example, a quest during which you can either keep a healing potion or return it to the rightful owner.)

If you're healthy, you can handle the most tiring tasks. Lift, push or pull heavy objects; use tools to destroy things; fight and prevail. But if you're weak, these actions overwhelm you. You can't, for example, climb on a mountain when you are close to death.

Up to this point, the game was either:

a) hiding choices that were impossible to activate. But if, for example, you should be able to lift this really large stone, but the game doesn't display an option to do so - does that mean it's impossible to accomplish it, or maybe you're at a wrong place? You need more information than that.

b) allowing you to select a choice, and then informing you that you've failed at your task. But the choice could still be available after that, making it confusing - can I try again? Should I try again? What should I do instead?



Having the “inactive” choices allows me to present some information more clearly, especially since they don't have to be phrased in the same way as the “proper” choices. Maybe you are in the right place but at the wrong time? An “inactive” choice will give you that information. Maybe your HP is too low? The game makes it clear now.

These “inactive” choices are, following the video games tradition, gray. It means they're also related to “inactive” Attitude buttons and other “inactive” icons presented in the game. Such as the blocked areas on the map that you can't currently visit. Oh, and they're not responding to hovering, and nothing happens if you click on them. So they don't look that weird.



Thank you for your attention and see you next week!
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2019, 07:54:31 AM »

Writing dialogues for the Clean Spear tavern​​​

The Clean Spear tavern is the first major settlement the can be visited in Roadwarden. “Can be”, but doesn’t “have to be”. While Spear is going to be related to various side-quests and may be a significant part of the experience, the player doesn’t have to visit this place to see the resolution of the “main” story.

When the game’s tutorial ends, the PC approaches a crossroad. The western road leads is more “tamed”, focused on interacting with people, participating in side quests and gathering rumors. The eastern road is much wilder — more challenging, focused on exploration, stranger. The unknown.



​Clean Spear is the first area placed to the west, and it plays an important role in the game. It’s introduced when the player knows the majority of the game’s mechanics, but isn’t sure yet how it’s structure is going to look like. “How much can I really do here,” they may ask.

So while most of the areas introduce just a bunch of possible interactions at once, the Clean Spear plays the role that in other RPGs is filled by the first town, or the first village. It allows you to participate in a couple of activities at once, without focusing too much on any of them in particular.

In this devlog, I’m going to present how it works. And what decisions have I made to build it this way.

Just to be sure — the tavern is not fully written just yet. For example, you can unlock a quest, but there are no hidden lines of code that already include all the dialogue chunks related to completing it. For now, I’m focusing on the first contact — what you will find here before you go further west.



It’s always difficult, especially in fantasy fiction, to measure the appropriate amount of worldbuilding presented through narration. Ideally, you want to give the player all the necessary information, but also — not more than that. And you have to make it as camouflaged as possible, build a narration that makes the dry facts palatable. So, the tavern is not just “big, has cost a fortune and you don’t know who could want to place it here, against all odds.” All these information are not just told, they’re shown.

When you arrive to a new place in Roadwarden, your character doesn’t ignore it. A part of the main story is that the PC has to explore the strange peninsula, and understand what and who is there to be found. I “could” add options such as “I don’t care, I just ride ahead” and allow the player to ride through the entire realm with as few mouse clicks as possible. I just find no value in it. It’s not a sandbox game, you’re not going to have a drunken “killing all NPCs” run anyway.

I assume that you’ve arrived to a new place to experience it. That exploring it is pretty much essential for the dramatic structure of the game, and you won’t try to avoid it.



To support the illusion that the other characters in the game have their own motivations, it’s the NPCs who speak with you first. One of the guards wants to use this opportunity to enjoy a bit of a small talk. She is kind, even goofy.

You can respond in a couple of ways by matching a dialogue option with one of the five Attitudes (Friendly, Playful, Distanced, Intimidating, Vulnerable). I see Attitudes as masks you use to influence how others see you.



​Two of the dialogue options are almost identical:

“It’s easy to learn how to do it, but it’s tiring. You have to train some weird muscles.”
and
“Quite hard, honestly. Not anyone can handle a palfrey.”

These two choices provide some small differences in the way NPCs react to your comments, but they’re not here to make one of these choices more “profitable” for the player. They’re meant to give you an opportunity to express your character. Is it trying to stay somewhat humble and even encouraging, or do you portray it as a strong person with a unique set of abilities — which is possibly more honest?



​The real difference here makes the Attitude you use while selecting one of these options. Attitudes can be chosen only at the beginning of the conversation and they mostly impact the first impression you make. Various combinations lead to slightly different answers and change the mood of your interaction with the guards. If you are either Friendly or Playful, the guards become more affable (and the game stores this information for later). And if you are Distanced or Vulnerable, they also stay rather neutral.

However, if you choose:
Intimidating: I don’t answer her. “It’s a tavern, isn’t it? Open the gate!”
…it will reduce the level of friendliness.

Currently, you can’t talk with the guards outside of this introduction, but it’s a thing I definitely want to add later on. An option to sit down with them and talk about one thing or another. It just wasn’t that important at this stage of the game’s development. And the level of your friendliness will modify such conversations.

This interaction is not extremely significant from the perspective of the game’s mechanics. That’s why you make the choice basing it mostly on your whim and judgment — the NPC is very open and kind, so you may want to respond in the same manner.



​However, in more significant parts of the game, you shouldn’t be forced to always base your judgment on feelings alone, without the more specific information. You can gather news about other NPCs, find out what are they like and what can you expect from them. It’s an information that’s not purely based on luck and empathy, but also something that you find through exploration.



​The innkeeper’s preferred Attitudes are more difficult to predict through the presented emotions alone. You can still play around and look for a “good” choice through trial and error, but you can find the information about the “optimal” Attitude in two places that you’ve previously seen.

Firstly, during the tutorial section you may find a clue here that the innkeeper likes professional, competent people — it’s suggested that you should stay “Distanced” around him. It’s an information that shows up only if you are asking questions, gathering intel. It rewards you for exploration.

The second source of the information was at the gate — if you’re either Friendly or Playful, the guard will mention that the “boss” isn’t one to make fun of. If you’re Intimidating, she will warn you to behave yourself around the innkeeper, or you’re going to regret it.

When you approach the innkeeper, every Attitude gives you a slightly different result, both narratively and mechanically. He has his own “friendliness” level, and here you can see how how it changes during the first encounter:

Friendly — new dialogue, friendliness is reduced by a level
Playful — same dialogue as Friendly, but friendliness is reduced by 2 levels instead of one
Distanced — new dialogue, friendliness is increased by a level
Intimidating — new route, friendliness is reduced by 2 levels. it also changes the displayed dialogue option into “Shut up and answer my questions. I’m in a hurry.”
Vulnerable — new dialogue, friendliness doesn’t change



The regular “route” allows you to choose between drinking a free beer (what gives you a nice taste description) or ignore it. The game doesn’t imply why you may want to refuse a free round. Maybe you’re paranoid and afraid of poison, or you don’t want to display too much trust, or maybe you feel like playing a character that doesn’t believe in anything being “free”. It’s a small role-playing bit, without any gameplay-related effects.



​The Intimidating route, however, makes the innkeeper angry. He threatens you, and you can either apologize or act tough. Both of these choices are rather bad. The first one gives you a temporary tavern ban — you are forced to leave, but you can return one day later and have the regular conversations. The second choice gives you a seemingly permanent ban.



​If you experience the temporary ban, you’re kicked out… Unless it’s already after sundown. In such case, you can stay. The atmosphere is cold and you’re pretty much forced to go to sleep, but at least you’re not thrown into wilderness (what would result in hurting your character). In case of a permaban — you’re kicked out no matter what.



​​It’s not the only thing that changes depending on the time current time. After the first visit, if you arrive before 8 PM, you’ll see an open gate and the guards minding their own businesses — the specific description is partially randomized. If you arrive later on, the gate will be closed and the guards will be already on the walls. If you arrive in the middle of the night, the atmosphere of your arrival changes significantly.

But let’s get back to the regular tavern visit.



​​Some of the actions you make are very straight-forward. You get through a couple of chunks of dialogue, and you return to the main list of questions. Regular RPG stuff:

“I’m looking for Asterion, the previous Roadwarden.”
“What can you tell me about the peninsula?”
“I didn’t expect to find a tavern of this size in a place such as this.”
“Need anything done? I could use a job.”


Each of these options can be used only once, and some of them won’t be available if specific conditions are met. The first one is strictly related to a quest, so if this quest is already finished, this dialogue option won’t be displayed. A similar thing will happen if the player finishes at least 50% of the game. In such scenario, the innkeeper already knows who the player is, so even the introduction scene is going to look differently. The player’s reputation precedes them, and the world reacts to their actions.

Some situations have simple role-playing bits:


​​
But the “I could use a job” option has a small twist to it. Once again, the player can react to received information in a couple of ways:



​And if the player asks for three coins instead of 2, the game will check the value of innkeeper’s friendliness — the one we’ve influenced during the Attitude phase of the conversation. If this value is higher then 0, the innkeeper will agree to 3 coins. If its equal or smaller, the reward doesn’t change.



​Small details such as this one are going to be spread around all of the conversations. I want the player to feel the mood, to see how others perceive you.

The relationship level also shapes the scope of information that player can receive from an NPC. For example, the player can ask for rumors related to specific characters through simple gossip screen, which involves text parsers:



​The higher the friendship level is, the more information is going to be revealed. And the most efficient way to increase one’s friendship is to complete quests and make good dialogue decisions. So, it will be necessary to involve some sort of hints like “you know, I feel like we could talk about Asterion some more.” I think it will support the feeling of self-agency and impact that the PC has.

As you’ve possibly noticed, a lot of things that in RPGs are treated marginally, in Roadwarden are a part of the main course. And I have to look for ways to merge the “mood” with the convenience. The shopping is a good example of it.

It’s important to me that buying stuff is seen as something more than a couple of clicks, as a part of the routine. I want to create this illusion of things being a part of the larger world, unique and with their own meaning and purpose. That someone wants you to buy them. So when you use any shop for the first time, you’re met with new dialogue that describes the things that are currently available (currently two, but it’s still WIP):



​However, you won’t have to see each one of these screens every time you want to buy something. Repeating the same information isn’t fun. So once you see the “stock,” the following visits are going to be smoother and more focused. Oh, by the way — the price of the fur is related to the innkeeper’s friendship level.



​This shop mimics some of the other in-game menus, like the sleeping screen. These menus have to be remade to make them less chaotic, but they are much closer to one-button solutions that will make faster.



​Selling stuff won’t repeat the structure that buying currently has. That’s because more often than not the player won’t have anything worth buying. And if they don’t have anything valuable, it’s still a one-click conversation. It doesn’t need a new menu.



​I still haven’t talked about the “leftovers” dialogue branch, but this devlog is already longer than I’ve expected.

I think an important part of Roadwarden is portraying everything as narratively convincing as possible, even though the player is constantly at the center of events. The game doesn’t have a submenu with friendship bars, or “+7, The innkeeper likes it” notifications, or “NPC will remember this” icons. Some decisions and actions are strictly here for the sake of role-playing and don’t change any numbers, while others provide bonuses and disadvantages in such a subtle way that the player won’t be sure if and how the cogs move behind the curtain.

It’s a difficult approach, but one that I’m proud of. I want the experience to cohesively merge the world, the player’s actions and all the mechanical systems — which are implemented to make the story stronger. I want all of it to blend into a sequence of events that makes sense. That feel like a good, massive fantasy tale.



​Thank you for your attention. The last week was crazy for me, and I’m happy with the progress I’ve recently made. It feels great to write.

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« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2019, 05:40:52 AM »

Banging My Head Against A Brick Wall - Roadwarden Devlog

It was a great weekend, a suitable ending for the long, long chapter of Roadwarden’s development. The game’s code is now much cleaner and it allows to add the new content easier and quicker. And I had quite a bit of content to add. New dialogues, new graphics, new activities.



The Clean Spear tavern has a new “chunk” of interactions now - the player can spend some time with the guards to gather new information about the world or other character. It all started with a minor, throw-away NPC added for some color, but once I figured I really like this group of characters, I decided to bring some quests and unique actions to the table.
It increased the amount of conversations for this area for about 30%, but the more I wrote, the happier I was.



The ruined village, the next area I’m going to write for, has sparked a lot of interest, especially on Facebook and r/worldbuilding. It has a lot of lore behind it and revealing the “true” nature of this place will be one of the side quests, but here’s the general description:
“A ruined village. The Imperial forests are dangerous and unfriendly, forcing the hamlets and villages to grow as slowly, as they can. If humankind affects the nature too much, too fast - the monsters arrive to take back what belongs to them.”
However, working on this area wasn’t easy. The buildings alone took me literally a day. Those of them that are more detailed and larger, were first designed in their “clear” form. After that, I’ve added the damage from fire, time and animal strikes:



What’s more important, however, is that originally I planned to make all of the buildings half of their current size:
https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/880/0*tjfYCSVhGLziCcIu.png
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a mess and I couldn’t portray too many details in such a restricted sprite size. Redraws were necessary, but making tiny structures is generally really fun.
The real problem, however, involved the bottom left corner of the image. My goal was to portray an old field, but people were seeing a dirty body of water, or even a forest. Here you can find a couple of stages that this one corner went through:



With such a limited set of colors, textures are sometimes enough. Adding the road in the middle really helps, a new context comes to mind.
In total, this image took me about 3 days. Yikes.



“At the edge of the swamp, a large tree stands for as long as anyone remembers. It has no leaves, yet slowly grows. To stay alive, however, it has to be fed by the locals, who put their offerings on an ancient altar.”
This picture took me just a day and I’m very happy with it. Some details had to be reworked or moved around (and the feedback I’ve gathered was very helpful), but since it repeated a lot of things that I’ve already had figured out, it was much easier to put my experience to use.
That’s why I don’t find the time spent on the houses or field to be a waste. Previously, I’ve spent hours trying to make water that look like water, a road that looks like a road. Now that I know how to do it, it all clicks much faster. Next time I’ll also be able to handle the field much better.
So I’ve decided to make another, small image and have it ready on Monday. A one room that’s placed in the village ruins. A place where an NPC has set a small camp, where he scavenges for scraps of iron and steel. Should be easy, especially since I already had a tent some stairs, barrels, a chest... SHOULD be easy.
Now, join me on my road to madness.



I wanted to place the tent on the “ground floor” (more like an above-ground basement) of the largest building. I’ve reconstructed the basic room structure, and here is what I’ve started with.



The first skeleton of the structure. It’s clear that the texture in the middle won’t work, but the base idea is here. Rocks on the bottom, bricks in the middle, wood on the top and in the corners. Not a practical design, but a pretty one.



First textures, testing various colors. The wooden pillar in the middle doesn’t work well, but the largest problem is the part in the bottom. I haven’t figured out any good texture for it, so I leave it for last.



New bricks, floor and decent wooden pillars. At this point I had to decide if I want to start working on the rest of the room, or keep digging into the walls. I’m digging.



I see a potential, even if it looks awful.



While trying to make the bricks more interesting, I decided they look really good and finally quit my idea to make the bottom part a “rocky” section. Bricks all the way.



Legit!



First version of the chamber. It could use some extra light.



See? Fun!
---------------------------------
I still have a new area to draw in mind that I have to take care of soon, then I can sink into some new dialogues and exploration bits. After writing all of it, I’m going to work for a bit on my code and add / modify some of the features. The diary needs a “characters” section to make it easier to remember all the NPCs.
A lot of things to do, but the support I’ve recently received was huge and I’m getting quite optimistic about this entire endeavor! Remember, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and the game’s website!
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« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2019, 08:06:09 PM »

Cool name, cool look, and cool dev log

"Banging your head against a wall" is a good way to describe doing pixel art in general. I love it for its abstraction and I actually prefer having the limitation, but something about iterating and reiterating over the pixels can drive me nuts at times
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« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2019, 09:05:35 PM »

Thank you, I'm glad you like it! I've started learning how to draw in January, and as the time goes on, I love pixel art more and more. Not only because I can do way more than I could before, but when I see how creative other people get when they fight with canvas / colors limitations, I'm just so impressed. Being able to fill the gaps in what is shown with my own imagination is extremely appealing to me.

But yeah, I can't do that for too long. I like to take breaks from drawing, focus on other things, then draw a lot to take a break from the rest of development. It also helps me when I have an opportunity to distance myself from looking at the same pixels for hours trying to finally fix them.
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« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2019, 12:19:24 PM »

Hah, totally with you there. I think my favorite part of solo development is I can switch around a bunch if I get tired of art, or writing, or programming, or whatever
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« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2019, 06:39:10 AM »

This project is very attractive, I would truly play it.
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« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2019, 05:32:10 AM »

I'm glad, Ramos! I had a short break from devloging, but not from developing. I have a new chunk of content to showcase!

Since Roadwarden is set in a semi-open world, its story is not linear and not divided into “chapters” per se. However, I do like to think that the development process is, indeed, divided into episodes - chunks of the world that include a significant part of the content.
The first “chapter” was involving all the areas presented in the tutorial, while the chapter I’m working on for the last couple of weeks includes the south-western part of the map, from Clean Spear tavern to the edge of the swamps. However, the development is not fully focused on writing new dialogues and quests. There are many details related to the interface and general design issues that require additional effort, and while it would be nice to completely invest time in drawing and writing, it’s crucial to fix every issue as soon as possible, before they roll over me like a boulder.

1. No more backing

From now on, there’s no “back” button and no option to just “roll back” your dialogue to change the decisions you’ve made. While it’s arguably less convenient, it’s meant to support the feeling of tension and support role-playing, without being constantly focused on making the most “optimal” decision. I hope to encourage players to go with the flow.
Still, the saving / loading spam is a completely valid option, so if you prefer to keep pressing F5s and F8s, it’s up to you.

2. New shopping screen

It took me quite some time, but here we are - the shopping screen was redesigned, rewritten and now presents all the required information much quicker. You can “open” the shop screen with the new “Trade” button in the quick menu, what makes it much more intuitive. And, of course, this functionality can be used in different ways as well.


3. The new journal

It took a lot of effort, but I think it’s a time well spent. From now on, the journal can have subsections, and first one of these subsections is going to store the information gathered about various NPCs. Even if you don’t need such notes, it’s important to have all the characters stored in one place - after all, names used in this setting are a bit unusual, and sometimes you have to type them.

4. New inventory screen

From now on, the inventory screen is going to have subsections. While for most of the time you’re still going to be able to see everything you own at once, it will be less messy. The amount of these subsections and how will they be named may still change, but it’s a start.

5. Combat

I saw many questions related to combat - how does it look? What does it involve? While there’s not that many fighting presented in the game, it doesn’t really involve a special interface or a completely different style of gameplay. Here you can see an example of a small encounter. It’s still related to your decisions: do you prefer to protect yourself, or to keep the NPC in one piece? And yes, you’ve already had a chance to spend some time with and decide if you like him.
While you can’t “lose the game” during this encounter, its ending may vary, and you can increase your success in some minor or major ways. If you use the “warrior” character class, it’s easier for you to win, and you can also keep yourself safer by, for example, giving the NPC a better weapon. All of it, however, uses the same “style” of interactions.

6. A lot of new things : )

But honestly, I’ve made such a huge progress recently. <3 I could drop here dozens of bits of dialogues, quests, items and things that are just plain weird but fun, but it would be pointless. Describing all of them would take a lot of time without explaining much, so I’ll just leave some new fun things here for you to see. In general - I believe the game’s content is now tripled since the demo was released.






Working on the more “general” issues is still not over, but for some time I’ll be able to focus more on writing and drawing. A lot of good things are on the horizon - it looks like Roadwarden may have found a publisher after all. While the game’s release is still a part of the distant future, there’s already a date in my mind. I probably shouldn’t share it yet.
Thank you for taking a look at this devlog, for your support and kindness. Remember, you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook. Have a great week!
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« Reply #18 on: December 09, 2019, 09:30:08 AM »

The New Chapter: About Steam, Demo and Others - Roadwarden Devlog

Roadwarden is an illustrated text-based RPG in which you explore and change a hostile, grim realm. It combines mechanics of RPGs, adventure games and Visual Novels, and since there’s a lot to talk about, let’s jump right into it.

1. You can now wishlist Roadwarden on Steam

As you may know, pretty much the entire development of the game, aside of music, was in my hands. Thankfully, the game now has a publisher. Assemble Entertainment (here you can get in touch with them) has set up the game’s store page on Steam, including

, logo and other visuals. It saved me a lot of time, and I’m grateful that I can focus on preparing the game for its release.

2. The new version of the demo for Windows, Linux and Macs is now ready



Here are some highlights of the introduced changes:

  • the available content has been tripled - you can visit four new areas (each one is significantly different) and engage in three complex dialogues that they involve
  • a completely new soundtrack was introduced
  • the in-game journal now includes a chapter that summarizes useful clues related to various NPCs
  • the inventory screen is completely redesigned and much more convenient
  • area illustration and inventory icons were updated
  • text parser that don’t need to support capital letters, like the one in the dolmen, don’t use them anymore
  • various bits of dialogues and interactions were enhanced
  • various spelling / phrasing fixes
  • a new title screen
  • bugs were eliminated - unless?

The demo can be downloaded from Itch.io.

Pleas note that the demo does not present everything that’s already prepared in the main game. There’s a whole bunch of new stuff to play around, but let’s keep it for the future release. : )

3. The game’s website was updated

From there, you can get anywhere you need - the game’s Facebook, Twitter, Steam page, demo...

Oh, and Soundcloud is there as well! A couple of the game’s original tracks are already available, more will come later on!



4. The very needed horizontal line is finally here



The narration and the player’s choices are now separated by a conveniently placed horizontal line. For me, it was always clear which text was which since they are in two different colors. However I’ve received a lot of opinions from very different people who barely see any difference between them.

One of those people has helped me realize that their color blindness is playing a significant role in this case, and it’s very important to me that every person who plays Roadwarden has a pleasant time. Having a convenient interface is a key to achieve that, so if any of you have an additional feedback, please go ahead.

5. Text scrolling was enabled



My plan was to avoid any sort of text scrolling to keep it “elegant”, but as the development went on, I’ve realized this limitation will sometimes get out of control, even making some of the content *less* interesting, not more. Also, having the scrolling option available will prevent some weird bugs in cases there’s more text than it should be.

There are only a couple of places where the scrolling is actually needed, let’s say... 1% of all the in-game text boxes. When the scrolling bar won’t be required, it won’t be seen at all, so I think it’s a great addition to the interface.

6. On the new inventory menu



The inventory menu was completely redesigned. It looks better, it’s more responsive, and the new inventory “categories” make it less messy when you carry a whole bunch of items at once, you picker.



Thanks to this new setup, using items is much less messy, more consistent. Even if the equipment is temporary disabled (for example - in the middle of an action screen), the player can still read the item descriptions.

7. Traveling descriptions are now assisted by illustrations



Traveling to a new place usually involves a paragraph or two that describes your journey, and those descriptions are now much more in-tone with the rest of the game. Previously, they were very short and limited to a pop-up window which had stuck out like a sore thumb.



Now they use the same interface and illustrations as the rest of the game, what provides a much smoother experience.

8. Why the devlogs are less frequent



Almost four months has passed since the last devlog. The break was unfortunate, but necessary. I’ve landed in a hospital in September, what resulted in significant changes in my lifestyle. I had to give up on some of my activities. Devlogs, for example, take a lot of time, and it’s better if I focus on developing the game instead.

I’ve recently read some of the scenes that I wrote down right when I returned to work at the end of September. It’s like reading a letter from someone who has had a fever. I understand the ideas, but everything is a complete mess. There’s still a LOT of work to do.

The devlogs won’t be shared every weak, but I hope to publish one at least once a month. I hope to stay in touch with you. : )



Thank you for taking a look at this devlog, for your support and kindness. Remember, you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook, and the game has a Steam page on which you can add it to your wishlist. Have a great day!
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« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2020, 05:35:57 AM »

Buried In Words - Roadwarden Devlog

(Roadwarden is an illustrated text-based RPG in which you explore and change a hostile, grim realm. It combines mechanics of RPGs, adventure games and Visual Novels, and you can now wishlist it on Steam!)

Since the middle of December, working on Roadwarden[/b] is mostly about writing new events, dialogues and quests. There were almost no updates on social media - I don’t have time to draw (aside of some inventory icons), and by popular demand, I try to avoid deeper spoilers. I’ve written quite a bunch of stuff, but the results won’t do for exciting screenshots.

I’m  currently focused on designing and filling up Howler’s Dell, the largest settlement in the game, so there’s a LOT of important character interactions to introduce, including quests, merchants, and lore. But in the meantime, some major changes have also been introduced:

If you don't see an entire picture, click it to make it resize to your window.

1. The game over screens

In the original Roadwarden’s Design Document, there were no game-overs. You could get significantly hurt during your journeys, but never to the point where you’d hit a brick wall that would make the further progress impossible. You’d need to rest and heal your wounds to participate in some events, but you could always move forward.



I’ve finally decided to change it. In most situations, reaching 0 HP won’t result in an instant death. But in some scripted encounters - usually when facing an overwhelming opponent while being completely unprepared - your character will be broken.



Still, I hope to make it as player-friendly as possible. Did you forget to save your game? Was autosave ran in an inconvenient spot? You can jump back in time a bit, no strings attached.

In various European cultures, the winged hourglass is an image related to the ephemerality of life, and it has became an important part of the Viaticum fantasy setting over ten years ago. Since there’s no single “canonic” design, I’ve had an opportunity to experiment with various approaches.

2. New “regular” font



The text has now more space to breathe, the letters have more personality, and thanks to the serifs, it’s going to be easier to keep track of the lines you read. Everybody wins:



While the majority of feedback that I’ve gathered shares my enthusiasm, I’ve also seen some words of criticism. It’s still possible that the font is going to be replaced with a different one, but I’m convinced it’s still a step in the right direction.



Even if the font is going to be replaced again, this little feature will be kept in the game. The good old “select a font” setting now showcases a small frame that explains the most significant traits of the regular font and the pixel one. Even though the pixel font looks cool on screenshots, it won’t be gentle on your eyes.

3. Updated inventory menu

From now on, pointing at an icon in your inventory will showcase not just the item’s brief description, but also its name.



This update was essential due to the constantly growing number of items added to the game. Usually, the player will keep using or loosing some of them as they complete more quests or take a part in more unique interactions, but you may reach a point when you’ll see a couple of dozen of icons at once, and they may start to get a bit blurry. When there was maybe 20 items in the entire game, clicking an icon to see the broader description wasn’t a large problem, but it became clear that it was a short-sighted, flawed design.

4. Redesigned armor system

I’m not gonna lie. The gambesons that were present in the demo? They were a placeholder, waiting for a better idea to show up. And here it is.

The original two “types” of armor were related to the character’s class selected at the beginning of the game - the Warrior gets the good stuff, while both the Scholar and the Mage have a piece of trash, since they couldn’t afford anything better.



I was expecting to introduce some encounters “better” armors later in the game, and also script interactions where the better armors help you survive major injuries or even death, but I felt it was not good enough. This approach doesn’t introduce much decision making, and it introduces sort of a boring stagnancy.



The new system offers three “levels” of armor. The level 1 - “A Worn Gambeson” - offers you little to no protection. If you want to be saved during some difficult encounters, or maybe get less hurt when you screw up, you want to get to at least the level 2 - “A Decent Gambeson” - which is given to the Warrior class at the beginning of the game.

Upgrading armor requires getting in touch with a tailor, and paying them to do some fixes for you. However, when the armor “saves” you, it often also gets damaged. Its level decreases.



The 3rd level of your armor - “A Fine Gambeson” - follows the same rules. Wearing it will save you from most wounds, but during this process, it may also get torn, downgraded to level 2. As the player, you have to decide how many dragon coins you are willing to invest to keep yourself in one piece.

So simple, yet so much better. And I can still decide to introduce levels 0, 4, 5... Depending on  what will turn out to fit the larger picture.

5. Updated journal menu

The journal has received the very needed scrollbars, which appear only when there’s too much text to fit in a single window. From now on, I don’t expect that the player will just “figure out” that they can use a mouse wheel, or drag the text box. Nice and easy:



Also, when you select a chapter (like “Quests”) or a specific entry (like the “Necromancers?” quest), the button is now highlighted, what will help you keep track of what you’ve been clicking through:



Also, unlike in the game’s demo, the “People” chapter is now cohesive with the “Quests” formatting. Originally, these sections had different sizes, what didn’t look as good as I intended.



6. Dolmen updates

Just to make it clear - the game receives a whole bunch of updates and bug fixes every week, and I don’t plan to list dozens of small adjustments just because. But this one is pretty fun for me, since it shows the progressing level of attention to detail, and the evolution of the game’s design. : )



Since the day I’ve introduced this area to the game’s prototype, I was unhappy about the low amount of visual changes it had to offer. No matter what you’d type down to solve the puzzle, the only clues you’d receive were presented in text.



The updated dolmen required some rewrites and a fair bit of drawing, but from now on, once you find something that provides a significant clue, you’ll also see a visual feedback that’s going to reflect your discovery. It will help you backtrack the older information, and focus your attention on more successful guesses. Oh, something new has showed up? I guess it’s important!



7. The world map reworks

Some of those updates are difficult to spot without a looking glass. Some percentage of the “bushes” have different colors now and a couple of new shapes; the forests and trees now cast shadows; the lake nearby the Southern Crossroads has more details; the river in the east is broader; there are new hills nearby Tulia’s Camp...



But it’s the eastern part of the map that has seen some major updates. It’s filled with hills and mountains, and because of it, it provides more limited vision than lands in the west, covered with plains and swamps. Previously, this disproportion was quite a bit larger, and I’ve decided to town it down a bit. I hope that the effect I’ve had in mind is still clear to spot.

8. More “stable” text boxes

When the player points at an icon, it usually creates a text box with a related description. From now on, more of these text boxes will be anchored to specific parts of the screen, instead of showing up in an area related to the player’s cursor. It should make the information less chaotic, and won’t cover other icons anymore. Also, there will be no more situations when the text box is partially outside of the game’s window.





Thank you for taking a look at this devlog, for your support and kindness. Remember, you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook, and the game has a Steam page on which you can add it to your wishlist. Have a great day!

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