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May 11, 2021, 09:16:16 PM

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ErikH2000
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« on: April 08, 2021, 10:08:37 AM »

I've been streaming on Twitch about my game for a few years. And that's fine, but words are good. I'm very writerly, if not a proper Writer. So I figure I'll consolidate my thoughts in a "dev journal" which will tend to overlap with stream content a little.

To quickly describe the game, I'll reuse our Steam Store page text:

Quote
A puzzle-based adventure where you play a character that finds herself pitted against God. Explore a hand-crafted world of clever, grid-based puzzles that require logical thinking to solve.

First release will be for Windows and Mac. It looks like this:



There's a nice trailer and a bunch of screenshots up on the Steam Store page if you want to see some more. Also... wishlist!

Current Status

As I write this, on April 8th, 2021, the game plays from beginning to end, the engine features are done, and we've put hundreds of hours into playtesting and bugfixes. If you played the game for a few hours, you might even be fooled into thinking it was done.

In the time between now and the January 1st '22 release date, I aim to do the following:
  • Finish the story content of the game, which uses a unique responsive dialogue system I want to tell you about.
  • Record and integrate hours of voiceover content with a cast of talented actors.
  • Add 2D animated face illustrations from Bettina Throckmorton, which uses a cool facial animation system that I built from scratch.
  • Write a bunch of music. Some of it with sung vocals. Some of it interactive.
  • Whip this puppy into shape with a 3-month beta period starting in September.

About Me

I'm old! 48, I think. (I have to keep checking my age because it changes all the time.) I know lots of stuff because I'm old. But I'm sure I forgot a bunch of stuff too. So it balances out.

I created the DROD (AKA Deadly Rooms of Death) series of puzzle games. Somebody called it the "Dark Souls of puzzle games", because it's frigging hard. But if you love puzzles, and get a bit upset when a "puzzle" game throws weak sauce at you, well... stick, with me, kid. The Godkiller has proper puzzles galore, with an aversion to reusing well-known game mechanics.

I worked as a professional game dev for Webfoot Technologies back in the oughts, releasing a bunch of card games, a few match-3 games, and Dragonball Z: Buu's Fury. And I ran a voiceover studio for a year, where we almost, but did not quite, voice Thimbleweed Park. Impressive, eh? If you look at my life, you'll see I'm very almost-successful.

I make code, sound effects music, prose, 2D art, 3D models, level designs, and project plans. Like a good generalist, I'm not exceptional at any of these things. And at some, the mediocrity weighs on my soul. But here and there, I get a little cross-functional bump that let's me make something extra-cool, like an interactive song that responds to a player's movement inside a level. The "Master of None" curse is one of the better ones to acquire.

My Team

In typical indie fashion, there's one person doing almost all the work. Yeah, that's me. But I have a small group of contractors and volunteers helping me out.

  • face art and illustrations - Bettina Throckmorton
  • 3D character models - Isaac Lima
  • additional 3D models - Ian Zimmerman
  • playtesters - Alex Harby, Matt Schikore, Linus Hamilton, Dan Pugh
  • marketing - Alex Harby
  • song vocals - Joseph DeNatale (more to be cast)
  • VO actors - Chelsea Blackwell, Kyle Chrise (more to be cast)

Coming Up

I've already got a bunch of features in the game engine that I feel like bragging about. I'll disguise this bragging as the passing on of knowledge. But seriously, I think I figured out some cool stuff that not many other people are doing. And I'm happy to share.

Also, as I've finished nearly all the game coding, the rest of this year will have a lot of stuff about creating and integrating media at the indie scale. I love the "How To" form of writing, so whenever possible, I'll use that to make my experiences transferrable. I'd rather write a "How to Run a Successful VO Session" post instead of "my VO session happened and it was cool".
« Last Edit: May 02, 2021, 11:28:35 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2021, 09:28:25 AM »

So I needed something for this nifty bird to say.



His name is Plundy. The 3D model was made by Ian Zimmerman, a cool guy I met on my Twitch stream. Ian very specifically targeted the low-poly aesthetic of The Godkiller with this model, which is great.

Plundy has a very specific job to do for the story. The main character, Emm, has been wandering around a strange and alienating world. Nearly every character she’s met has been some combination of rude, aloof, or hostile. If you can remember Alice in Wonderland, it’s the same kind of vibe – one reasonable person inside a madhouse. At a certain point in the story, I need Emm to meet somebody nice to give her and the player a bit of relief. Among other things, that’s what Plundy is for.

I played with some different ideas. A quiet, kind creature that likes to snuggle. Or maybe Plundy gives wise and helpful advice. And then an idea hit me that made me laugh.

Plundy should sing. And it should be nonsense words that start to sound like English, but you never quite get them. Drawing a little inspiration from this crazy old Adriano Celentano video.





So I wrote a song with me singing in a silly bird language. Plundy’s got attitude – just like Celentano. He’s cool. He’s tough (or at least thinks he is). But he lets you in, because he likes people and he likes you.

In the level that Plundy appears, you have to solve a puzzle. And there are three challenges to clear before it’s solved. Basically, you manipulate blocks such that you can get to three points in the level. I decided that Plundy should start a new verse of his song each time you clear a challenge. There would also be some intro and in-between music that would loop until you got to the next challenge. In addition, Plundy would make cooing noises when you made some progress towards clearing a challenge.

The song was designed with this in mind, as well as the capabilities of my game engine. I’d already written code to play songs and cross-fade between them, as well as show subtitles for lyrics.



The sections of the song are:

* Intro – a minimal looping track. It just tells you, “there’s gonna be music” and not much else. If the first verse began without this it would be much too abrupt.
* Verse 1 – Plundy starts singing after you clear the first challenge. It will probably surprise the player – hopefully in a good way!
* After Verse – Another looping track that plays after first and second verses.
* Verse 2 – Plundy sings another verse after you clear the second challenge. It follows the pattern of the first verse.
* Verse 3 – Plundy’s finale. It lasts a little longer than the first and second verse. And Plundy cajoles the main character, Emm, to sing part of it. This helps define Plundy’s gruff but inclusive attitude.

Each section begins with a short part that is designed for cross-fading. So it’s possible to transition from track A to track B no matter what position you’re at in track A.

Okay, so you want to see and hear it? Here’s the song playing from within the game- BUT, I must warn you… You could really hate this song!




« Last Edit: May 03, 2021, 09:57:29 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2021, 09:16:31 AM »

Not gonna brag, but I know some things about getting software released. Okay, I am gonna brag, but not out of proportion to my capabilities.

On my Twitch stream, I show this status screen below at the beginning and when I have use the bathroom.



It’s kind of fun to see it all on one screen. But I’ve spent years shipping products, and I know there’s a key thing missing from that screen – time. This screen gives an idea of what’s been completed and what’s left to do. But it doesn’t communicate “when”. Am I just saying “we ship it when it’s ready”?

No.

I’ve picked a specific date – January 1st, 2022. I’m tempted to say some things about why other people have trouble hitting launch dates, but hey… I don’t really know their lives. I just know that I can hit dates. I’ve done it so many times before. Why would I not do it again?

I picked January 1st because it’s easy for people who are interested in The Godkiller to remember. And also it realistically matches my work remaining with a bit of buffer. If I’m ahead of schedule at end of the year, I can spend some extra time on polish or start early on some DLC.

Here’s my schedule for the rest of the year. Click on the image if you want full-sized view.



The next milestone for me to hit is getting the game story-complete. This means that all the character dialogue is written and integrated into the levels. Here’s what it looks like in code:



This aspect of the game is one of the few places where I get an “indie advantage”. Because I’m wearing multiple hats and understand the level design, face animation, engine code, and story, I can do this work quickly and get a good result. What typically happens with a modern software team is that you have specialists in different areas, e.g. engine coder, level scripter, writer, character animator, and they have to spend an exponential amount of time on communication. That communication can come in the form of writing specs, having meetings, peer reviews, or just iterating a ton to get the needs of each discipline met within the product. I’m done with the writing/coding/animating for a simple level in an hour, and the game shows the new dialogue with face animation. (Shown below)

/

It’s a nice underdog moment, but don’t get me wrong–I’d much rather have a big budget and team to make an AAA version of my game.

So I am plugging away at this task of story-completeness, and have 25 of my 58 levels done. I track the overall story outline as well as completion status in a Google sheet like this one: (mild spoilers of early plot events)



Looking at my overall schedule, I can see that I’ve used up about 25% of my time on the story-complete milestone, but I’ve got 38% of the work done. So I’m ahead of schedule right now, which is great. This particular milestone is important, because I need all of the dialogue finalized ahead of June when my voiceover actors are scheduled to record their lines.

Since I’m doing this basic project planning and my risks are low, it gives me the confidence to pick a launch date and stick to it. Even with a bit of bad luck along the way, The Godkiller – Chapter 1 will release on our Steam store page January 1st.

Just. Like. I said. It. Would.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:48:36 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2021, 07:47:51 AM »

I know not everybody hates cut scenes. But I do. Anything that is not playing the game is unwelcome to me. So The Godkiller has no cutscenes.

I don’t even like those splash screens that come up when a game launches – a little slideshow of ESRB ratings, publisher logo, studio logo, loading screen. The worst thing is when a piece of intro media requires time to load. Like some of the Magic the Gathering games have intro animation that looks fantastic, but you have to wait for it to load every time you launch the game.

I removed all of these except for the loading screen, which looks like this:



It’s purposefully minimal. I’m not even going to add a company logo to this screen. What screen comes next? The title or menu screen? Nope.

The player wants to play. We send them directly to the game. If they had a previous session, it gets restored and they’re continuing from their last point. If they’ve never played before, they’ll see this screen.



Hmm. A song with lyrics plays. The name of the developer studio is shown. Looks like your basic intro credits cutscene, right?

It’s actually the first level, fully interactive. There is a camera about a half-mile above the player’s character, descending towards her. Even though at the beginning of the scene, this character is a sub-pixel dot, you can still control her and make progress within the level. The series of screencaps below shows how the camera descends. (I need to figure out how to make animated GIFs!)






So it’s not a cutscene. No cutscenes in my story-based game. I hate them.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:48:54 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2021, 10:25:01 AM »



There have been times when I sat down to design interactive dialogue, and it just sprawled out of control. I try to get clever and make the dialogue reflect all kinds of nuances. I sometimes hope for the ELIZA illusion, where the player is fooled into thinking they’re conversing with someone intelligent despite the algorithm handling the discussion being simple.

If I’m using a freeform flowchart kind of topology to design dialogue, it can easily blossom into an unruly space of possibilities that gets difficult to maintain. My adventure game, like most others, needs simplified conventions for dialogue. I’m not building an AI or a massive choose-your-own-adventure game.

There’s so much that’s been written about interactive storytelling, particularly by people like Chris Crawford. Instead of rehashing, let me just quickly explain the one thing I figured out for my game that’s pretty good.

I have NPCs that have got something a little lengthy to say – I call it a “spiel”. But in The Godkiller, you never get locked into conversations. You walk up to characters, and if they’ve got something to say, they’ll start talking through the spiel.

Here, the player puts our main character Emm next to Billy who wants to give a lecture on pushing blocks.



Emm catches the second part of “You can push blocks, if you’re qualified,” and suddenly decides she’s got better things to do. So she bolts up the stairs. Note that there is no explicit exit from a conversation menu. The player just goes about their business inside the game (not meta UI), and characters react and speak accordingly.



Despite her politely excusing herself, Billy is irritated. But he stops giving his lecture. Later Emm returns.



And Billy continues his lecture from the previous point. There is some intelligence to the spiel data structure that will choose the correct reentry point and dialogue text so that the conversation feels natural.

The structure of a spiel looks like this:



The dialogue that will be spoken if the spiel goes uninterrupted is in the “Line” column. And the handling of interruptions is in the “Skippable?” and “Resume” columns. No matter which line I interrupt the conversation at, the dialogue will still sound natural when it is returned to. The problematic lines are the ones that are phrases midway through a sentence or rely on some context from a previous statement. I can make these orphaned lines skippable, which means dialogue resumes at a line coming after them. I can also use an alternate line to resume with, e.g. “Can you eat blocks?” instead of “Can you eat them?”.

Using the rules above, the player can interrupt the conversation at any point, and it will resume naturally. You can see how every possible interruption would affect dialogue in the chart below. (Click the image for full-sized version.)



If I had flowcharted the same set of interactions, well… I’d be writing this article from a mental hospital. That chart would be freakishly complex. This is why getting some simplified conventions for interactive dialogue is important.

Using the spiel structure, there is another nice opportunity that can be unlocked here. Interjections are easily accommodated. In this “mock tutorial” scene I’ve been describing, the player’s character, Emm, can antagonize Billy by doing things inside the room. She can climb the steps to his podium or push the block around. Billy will stop his lecture to shriek at Emm about something she is doing at that moment in the game, and then resume the lecture seamlessly.

If you want a demo of this interactive scene, check out the video below from my Twitch stream.





This approach isn’t the best for every game. But it totally works for The Godkiller with its emphasis on using dialogue to complement the main gameplay actions of the player. If you’re interested in learning more about the game or adding it to your wishlist, check it out on Steam.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:49:22 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2021, 01:53:29 AM »

Replying to follow your progress!
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« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2021, 06:31:56 AM »

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Replying to follow your progress!
Thanks! I appreciate hearing from you. Keeps me motivated!
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« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2021, 11:07:22 AM »



I’m a big fan of player empathy. A ton of my level design process is me thinking hard about how the player will react to different situations.

But with the help of our awesome alpha playtesters, I’ve got a better tool at my disposal – recorded videos of them playing through the levels. So I don’t have to think abstractly about how a player reacts to my levels. I just watch the videos and see it for myself.

This helps alleviate an old problem in interactive storytelling – keeping the player-controlled character relatable. There’s an uncanny valley to cross between full control and no control of a character. At one extreme, in a game like Portal, your character, Chell, expresses nothing other than the actions you give her. At the other extreme, watching a movie like The Matrix, you know you have zero control over Neo while you watch the movie. (I mean you can try twiddling the game controller and see if you can get him to do stuff.) Neo can be something completely different than you without it bothering you.

My theory for making good dialogue for a player-controlled character in a linear-story game is this:

  • Establish the character quickly, so the player has some idea of what role they are playing.
  • Don’t pretend the character will or should express everything that player controlling them would want to express.
  • When there are good opportunities to express through the character what the player is likely thinking, take them.

This last point is where watching reactions from playtesters helps.

On a particular level in the game, Glory Heights, half of the playtesters expressed a moment of confusion about a game mechanic. They arrived at the top of a building and were somewhat surprised that they could push a block element through rails, which function as obstacles. Since the playtesters are a bit on the elite puzzle-solving side, I imagine less hardcore players could have more trouble than they did.



I added the following dialogue for the player-controlled character, Emm, when she arrives at this location:

Quote
Emm: (sigh)
Emm: I can’t push the blocks, when they’re behind rails?
(pause)
Emm: Right?

The “right?” on the end cajoles the player to try it out. Once the player successfully pushes a block, Emm continues:

Quote
Emm: I *can* push the blocks when they’re behind rails.
Emm: Okay, this should be super-easy.

The “this should be super-easy” remark is the setup for a small joke. This particular puzzle had all the playtesters trying and discarding their first idea, and then cranking through what turns out to be a tough, little level with no quick solution. When the player solves the puzzle, Emm says:

Quote
Emm: What a pain in the ass.

…and it aligns with what most players are going to be feeling at that point – a little fatigued, but satisfied to make it through. The acknowledgment that it was tough should also give them a sense that the game won’t push tedious and unfair challenges on them.

You can see a demo of these interactions in the video below. It’s from my Twitch stream.





I’m 50% done with story edits to levels today. Still comfortably on track for the January 1st release. Wishlist the game on Steam!
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:49:49 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2021, 11:20:21 AM »



People look at my game, The Godkiller, and they think, “oh, great, another block-pushing game.” I get it, I get it.

I too, am a bit fatigued with soko-ban-style block-pushing. I even put a ban (a "soko-ban-ban?") on including them in past puzzle games I’ve made. It’s been done, right?

So originally, when I put blocks in The Godkiller, it was meant as a little joke. (In the story, there’s a society that spends all their time drearily pushing blocks around.) But along the way, I discovered a set of mechanics that really revived block-pushing for me. Let me explain to you why I think my blocks are so damn special.

#5 When You Push ‘Em, They Go Flying!



Your classic soko-ban block moves one square when you push it.

My blocks fly across the room. They don’t stop until they hit something. You can’t move them one square at a time unless an obstacle is one square away to catch them.

This on its own, completely changes your strategy. Knowing where all the key catch-points are in a level is important.

(By the way, it’s just reckless to claim you’re doing something new in video games. This type of block-pushing was done in earlier games like

by Soleau Software.)

#4 You Can Push Multiple Blocks Together.



If a second block (or other pushable thing) is in the path of a block, that block also gets pushed. In fact, any number of blocks can be pushed together.

This gives your player character a very powerful feel. She’s knocking blocks all over the place, and it ain’t nothing to her!

#3 You Can Stack Blocks.



Blocks plop on top of each other to stack vertically. The Godkiller is not a 2D game dressed up in 3D visuals. It uses verticality, with puzzles that have you climbing, falling, and dropping.

#2 The Blocks Spell Words.



Combined with another game element, “letter gates”, you can affect the level by spelling (or unspelling) words that are on gates and bridges. If you arrange blocks to spell key words, the corresponding gates and bridges become solid so that you can’t pass through them.

#1 They Are Unstuckable.



What if I told you that The Godkiller doesn’t have a restart key? And that’s a good thing?

In a classic game of Soko-ban, you’ll end up getting blocks stuck, and needing to start over.

In The Godkiller, you just push the block against a wall or other obstacle, and it is destroyed, reappearing at a block pad that has a matching letter. All puzzles are designed to be unstuckable. It gives you a light feeling, like you can try anything and not be penalized for it. I appreciated this approach playing William Chyr’s glorious Manifold Garden.

These Are Not Your Father’s Blocks

The game plays quick, with a happy, violent, “no-consequences” feel to it. Don’t like where a block ended up? Smash it to bits! Stack em in towers. Knock em around.

Your commands are performed instantly with a “past effect” style of animation. So everything responds quickly in a way that feels satisfying.

Wishlist my game on Steam! (Well, you know… if you want.)
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:50:13 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2021, 12:53:29 AM »

Here is the soundtrack for your game Tears of Joy:


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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2021, 05:38:05 AM »

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Here is the soundtrack for your game
Hehheh. I was just laying in bed trying to wake up. That helped!
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2021, 08:45:43 AM »



I’ve got a habit of acting out in my head what I think a video game character might be thinking. Even when it serves no purpose but to amuse me. If I’m playing Super Mario Brothers, I’m imagining the turtles as aiming to get someplace to the left of the screen, and hoping they won’t get jumped on. Or worse, picked up and used as a mere object to be thrown at other creatures. The violation and indignity they must feel!

So if I’m making my own game, (and I am) you bet I want to add some personality to the enemies in the game. I can give them a voice.

Below, you can see Emm (player character) starting a level. Below her, a single adversary guards the level exit. This fellow is a Beard. He won’t become aggressive unless Emm steps on grass. (It’s against the law to step on grass, in this world, and Beards enforce that.)



The only path forward requires stepping on the grass, which Emm does. This triggers some dialogue with the Beard, where he complains and offers her a peaceful option – just stay out of the center area.



But Emm has to get to the center to leave the level. So she uses her flinging power to get around the Beard. When Emm arrives at the center, the Beard is very irritated.



There’s a bunch of other dialogue on the level. Emm can continuously leave and return to the center to further upset the Beard. She can wander off to other rooms, interrupting conversation. A nice thing is that none of this scripting changes the behavior of the Beard. He is a predictable game element following general rules. But adding a little dialogue on top lets us imagine he’s something more complicated. It’s more fun to win against somebody that cares about being beaten.

This is my game, The Godkiller. If it looks interesting, consider wishlisting it on Steam.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:50:40 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2021, 10:14:21 AM »

I wrote another interactive song. This one was a doozy!



What makes the song interactive? It responds to what you do in the game. So this song, sung by a “Chief” character in the game, progresses as you do things in the level leading up to completion. It’s a silly song about five guys guarding their house from a thief, which is you – or Emm, our story’s hero. When Emm rolls up to the front of their little fortress, the Chief starts singing.



And I noticed something midway through writing the song. I was following a certain “villain song” pattern from The Mighty Boosh, my favorite British comedy show ever. Basically, they do these silly songs with a bad guy that fit the story. I was trying to sing like Noel Fielding without realizing it. My “Chief” character did not reach the depths of comedy horror that

or Howling Jimmy Jefferson did, but… I’ve got another song in the game, We Got The Knives, with a fang-smiling sadistic monster.



So yeah… I must be missing the Boosh pretty hard.

I really like adding character-sung songs into the game, and the playtesters seem to be enjoying them. I know that you can’t please all the people all the time. Some are gonna hate my music. But that’s what the music on/off setting is for. So far I’ve got six songs with lyrics. I might add one or two more.

If you want a demo of the new song, here’s the first part of it.





All this comes from The Godkiller, a puzzle adventure game that will drop on January 1st. It is wish-listable on Steam.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 10:51:04 AM by ErikH2000 » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2021, 10:59:01 AM »



I don’t do all the work on The Godkiller. My little budget on the game is enough to let me hire a few contractors here and there. When I started the game, I thought I’d do all the face art by myself. And I did okay, I think. Here’s the assets for Emm:



But I realized two things after finishing assets for Emm and Billy:

1. I was dreading the large amount of remaining face art work, and…

2. Bettina Throckmorton could do it better.

I’ve worked with Bettina on four other projects in the past, one of them going deep into face animation. She’s a total pro. I was happy when she agreed to do the face art for my game.

To kick things off, I sent Bettina a doc that described all the assets needed. One of the pages is shown below:



This is actually a second round of specification. Earlier, I had sent rough concept art to Isaac Lima, who created the low-poly 3D character models. So when I came to Bettina for face art, I also had Isaac’s fine work to use as a reference.

Yesterday, Bettina sent me sketches for all of the characters in the game. She likes to draw up multiple options. Here’s what she sent me for the Beard.



I picked “D”. I liked the simple, axe-blade shape of his head. It makes the guy look tougher. Also, some of the other options felt more like Santa Claus or an elf. Option D is rocking the powerbeard.

Now Bettina’s working on color/line versions of the faces. And after that, she’ll make the final assets. Then I’ll plug them into the game, and we’ll have animated faces popping up above all the characters in the game – like this:



The Godkiller is destined for release on January 1st, and I am working hard on it. If you’ve got an interest in the game, check it out on Steam, and maybe wishlist it.

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« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2021, 08:25:33 AM »



As I described previously, I’m solidly committed to releasing The Godkiller on January 1st, 2022. To be on track for that, I need to complete the story scripting and associated dialogue by June start. So let’s see where I am on that.

There are 58 total levels. I’ve completed story on 36 of them. That effort took me 33 days. So on average, each level takes me about a day to complete. There are some that have taken 4 days and some that have taken an hour, but the average I’ll use for my calculations is a day. I have 22 days of effort remaining and 43 calendar days left until June.

So I’m well ahead of schedule.

Quote
What about the weekends?

I work on the weekends. I work every day. I'm a freak, I know.

Yesterday, I managed to create a proper adventure game puzzle. Mostly, the challenges in the game are based on clearing levels according to common game elements. But here and there, I can do a story-based puzzle. I don’t want to give it away, but you have to play a game with Plundy, a big friendly bird that involves deciphering his not-quite-English language.



If my game seems interesting to you, you could wishlist it on Steam.
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The Godkiller - a 3D puzzle adventure game that pits your character against God. Wishlist on Steam!
ErikH2000
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2021, 10:54:28 AM »



I wrote a song and sent it off to Kyle Chrise, actor for Billy. I asked him to record vocals for it. Now, Kyle is an actual musician who plays in bands (Still Rebel, Teenage Prayers). So I was a bit nervous about sending him my unworthy music. But he’s a good sport, and agreed to do it.

Here’s the lyrics for Billy’s painfully precious “When Is It Time for Me” song.

Quote
I’ve been waiting,
While they’re hating
All the ways
I’m better than them.

Anticipating,
A very great thing.
My moment
When I ascend.

The flower blooms
The butterfly emerges
The lover grooms
The geyser surges

If there’s a time for them
Then I ask you when…
When is it time for me?

The song is somewhat a spoof on a theme used in seemingly every Disney/Dreamworks animated movie. In these movies, there’s some unique snowflake of a character that’s not quite fitting in. And by end of the movie, the underdog misfit has become the hero of their village/world/anthill. And not despite their quirky behaviors, but because of them.

Except in Billy’s case, he’s an untalented bureaucrat with a festering bitterness. He is the worst combination of ambition and ineptitude.



Part of the reason I wanted this new song is that I need one or two more with vocals/lyrics so there isn’t a dry patch in the last third of the game. Ideally, characters in the game are going to sing you a song every few hours of gameplay. Some people won’t like the songs at all, but they can just turn them off or skip past them quickly.



There’s currently ten songs with vocals written for the game, with a couple more planned. So it will be like playing a game that is also a musical. Weird, huh?

I’ll probably post back later with the finished song from Kyle.

Wishlist it, baby!
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ErikH2000
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« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2021, 12:27:28 PM »



I love a good walk-and-talk, in real life, in movies/TV, and especially, in video games.





Following Wheatley around in Portal 2 while he gave dubious advice was a blast. I knew that those corridors were dialogue delivery mechanisms, contrived to make what amounts to an interactive cutscene. But the seamless integration of story and gameplay worked perfectly for me. To this day, I still think of Portal 2 as the gold standard for conveying dialogue while letting the player move through the game.

So it’s no surprise that I use some of the same tricks and sensibilities in my game.

There’s this level in The Godkiller called “Precipitalus”. It’s got a “dark city” vibe to it.



Story-wise, I wanted something big to happen here. So far, I’ve been ruthlessly spartan in explaining how this world works. In Precipitalus, the player would be about two-thirds through the game. I felt they were ready to get some questions answered. If I hit the player with that stuff at the beginning, it’s just boring backstory and exposition.

Brief story summary: Emm, the main character, is born into an afterlife that she doesn’t understand. She’s introduced to new people and rules of reality as she explores. Thematically, it’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland or Gulliver’s Travels.

I wrote about three minutes of dialogue to be spoken by a new character, Baldface, who’s a savvy, realpolitik type. Three minutes is a monstrous amount of dialogue for a game. I cut it down to one. One minute is still a helluva lot. Is the player going to want to sit still and listen for a whole frigging 60 seconds? I think not.

So I used the “walk-and-talk” technique. Baldface says, “Hey, can we go for a walk?” He darts out the backdoor of his office, and starts a Sorkinesque spiel as Emm trots along.



The player can depart from the talk at anytime, excusing herself. If the player then brings Emm back to Baldface, he’ll resume the walk-and-talk using the interruption algorithm that I explained earlier in this article. So as the player, you do what you want in the level, and the game responds to you.

It works quite well. And I like it much better than having Baldface stand behind a desk while spouting his monologue.

One last thing… the screenshot at the top of the article for Baldface’s office had some placeholder 3D models in it. I’m getting some help from Ian Zimmerman to properly furnish it.



This is my unborn child- I mean my game, The Godkiller. My bundle of bits wants to be wishlisted on Steam!
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« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2021, 09:17:06 AM »



Marketing stuff. It turns out that puzzle game players are super-focused on the mechanics of gameplay. My current trailer for The Godkiller, is fairly polished. I watched lots of Derek Liu videos. I’m a decent video editor. I wrote a unique song and had a professional record vocals for it. So I really did put some effort into it.





But the trailer doesn’t satisfyingly explain the game mechanics. I asked people. They told me.

Quote
I don’t think I understand the mechanics that well after watching it, which is something I usually want from a puzzle game trailer (not that I want everything spoiled, but the basics)

 
Quote
Watching The Godkiller trailer two times and I’m still kind of wondering what the gameplay is like.

 
Quote
I think I have an idea of the gameplay, but only after rewatching a couple of times.

And a game marketing consultant, Chris Zukowski, told me the same thing. So it’s back to the drawing board on the trailer.

But let’s just take a moment to experience the pain of rejection…

“You mean everybody is not impressed with my very special trailer that I worked super-hard on?”



Ouch.

The good news for me is that the game mechanics for The Godkiller are, in my opinion, unique and understandable. I just need to take some time in the video to show them properly.

Here’s an example of a trailer for a puzzle game that has the structure I’m intending.





New trailer coming in a bit.

The Godkiller, wishlist on Steam.
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« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2021, 11:58:04 AM »



Most of the levels in The Godkiller follow a kind of “linear-plus-options” structure. There’s the main series of events that unfold as you progress through a level. And along the way, extra story bits are sprinkled around. E.g. Walk next to a statue of an angel and the main character, Emm, will ponder if angels are real or not. For better or worse, the game is not an open world adventure or RPG. I keep the story tight so that I can do bigger things with it, like show nuanced character development.

But here and there, I can open up the options.

Mild spoilers ahead.

When Emm arrives at this place called “Windings”, her tedious mentor, Billy, is waiting. And they arrive at a decision point. Go left or right. To the left is a long winding path, which Billy immediately chooses.

Quote
Billy: “We’re going left. It’s safe and simple!”



Emm (the player) can follow Billy left or plunge into a dark pit to the right. Emm, like the player, will likely be in the mood for adventure. Going left, she’ll get an earful of Billy.



There are a few other twists to the level, but I don’t want to spoil too much. A wager of sorts to the left that can unlock an achievement. A character in the pit that is on the verge of mental ruin. A dramatic conversation at the end of the level that saddens and humiliates one of the characters.

I am so excited for the game to be complete and out in the world for people to play. It’s coming! Wishlist on Steam.
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« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2021, 06:51:12 AM »

Small piece of feedback with the caveat puzzles are not my cup of tea: the animation feels a bit too jumpy. I understand that there's a grid system but perhaps it would look better if the transition is smoothed out a bit.
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