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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsMOONBRIAR - AAA Visual Novel | Changes to Traits & Levels
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Author Topic: MOONBRIAR - AAA Visual Novel | Changes to Traits & Levels  (Read 18647 times)
Ramos
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« Reply #140 on: December 22, 2022, 10:26:30 AM »

[Placeholder for future devlog...]

[Placeholder for future comment on the future devblog...]
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #141 on: December 22, 2022, 12:17:16 PM »

I keep telling myself "its just a Visual Novel, its not that hard, you should be further along!" but I'm trying to combat that urge and feeling. There is no such thing as a simple game, they all take work and time so I'm trying to be less pessimistic about progress.

Haha, yeah, it might be mechanically simple but making a visual novel involves, well, writing a novel, which itself is no mean feat!
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oldblood
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« Reply #142 on: December 24, 2022, 11:41:16 AM »

DEVLOG XXVI - 2022 in Review

Merry Christmas, TIGForums!

Anyone that's followed this devlog the last 16 months probably knows I tend to take a pessimistic outlook on my progression for this project, but I want to look back at this year and review what all was accomplished over the last 12 months, compared to my earlier devlogs in late 2021. Do I wish I was further along? Absolutely. Did I hope to already have a Steam page & teaser trailer live? Yes. Did I hope to have a public alpha by this point? Yes. But, overall, I can't complain about what was accomplished, despite us not being where I'd hoped we'd be at the end of the year.

Private Alpha Demo: I was able to share the alpha demo with a small group of 5 of 6 friends and devs. This is a really small starting group, so I had to take feedback with a grain of salt, but allowed me to get some early thoughts on what things were working (or not) before sharing it with a broader audience. That has proved very helpful as they were able to highlight a variety of fixes or small improvements that I could make and I generally think it has helped increase the quality of the first act before I move forward with a public alpha demo sometime in 2023. So while it wasn’t the public demo I wanted at the end of this year, I’m still pleased we got a demo out into some folks hands.

Environment & Character Art: Last year was the year of struggling to find an environment artist, and were super lucky to bring on Erel Matita in January. We've since gone on to complete a little over 70% of all the core environments this year. Now, as the project has grown, we may end up needing additional assets, but still really pleased with the overall progress. We also added Nora Potwora as a character artist midway through 2022 and that had a BIG impact on how many characters we were able to make. We've completed over 80% of the core character art pieces. Again, we may find that long-term we need to expand the amount of content (and there is a ton I would love to include but cannot for budgetary purposes) but a lot of the "Core" assets I believe we need were completed this year. Which is a big accomplishment.

Meet ‘Bauson’ – A Recruitable Friend

Animation: We’re also now about 70% of the way through both character and environment animations. For the most part we’re completing animations as the art is getting completed so—knock on wood—we haven’t really hit any big bottlenecks on this. Jaang Eimyoung has been leading the way on character animation and Arman Harutyunyan on environmental animations. I’m very lucky to have the two of them on this project as the animation continues to be one of the strongest elements in this project.

LARGE GIF WARNING – A New Environment “Mouth of the Warren”

Meet ‘Oakleaf’ – A Diplomat in Moonbriar

Writing & Development: This is one area where we are probably the most behind. We have the first act fully written and implemented, and have the remaining 3 acts outlined but we’re really only just now getting into fleshing out the 2nd Act with dialogue and prepping to implement it. I’m pretty happy with the quality of the writing, and we were forced to throw out a lot of the early writing in 2022 when we realized the story needed some significant changes. My hope is that we’ll be able to move faster here given that the foundation has been laid—and a year ago—that wasn’t really the case. But, it’s definitely been a lot slower in this regard than I expected. If there is a bottleneck, writing has been it. But, significant strides were made this year and early feedback from the private alpha demo seems to indicate the writing we have done is pretty solid. Hopefully that will remain the case as the broader audience gets exposed to it next year.

Haha, yeah, it might be mechanically simple but making a visual novel involves, well, writing a novel, which itself is no mean feat!

This was actually a great reminder, Prinsessa. I've done a decent amount of writing before so I should have not underestimated the level of effort needed to write the game, but I somehow have.

Music, SFX, & Voice Acting: We’re really only getting into this all now. I began Voice Over tests with maybe the hardest thing to voice: Children. There is a small flashback scene early in the game where we see two characters interacting as children. The best way to voice a child is—surprisingly—with a child. Of course, to make matters complicated, it’s also a fairly dramatic sequence so finding a professional voice acting child who can also act and display emotions proved to be quite the serious challenge for getting my feet wet with Voice Acting. I did end up getting the scenes cast and voiced and they turned out pretty well, but do also present some challenges with the children either not acting enough or occasionally over-acting. I was able to get the voice-acting in game with little issue but definitely found the first tests of casting and recording to be pretty challenging. I do believe that I likely should end up doing Voice Acting in the demo that releases next year. So I’m sort of anticipating this will be an expensive and time-consuming part of my Q1 2023. We shall see.

The SFX has been added throughout the game, both UI/UX as well as general nature ambience. While some of it is placeholder, others I feel have turned out pretty well and SFX as whole goes a long way in making the game feel more complete. Music is something I’m currently exploring some tests with, and hope to get that moving forward early into the new year as well.

***

Thank you to everyone who read and followed and commented on Moonbriar in 2022. Your encouragement, ideas, and support have been invaluable. Looking forward to what 2023 has in store for all of us. Merry Christmas!
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Ramos
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« Reply #143 on: December 24, 2022, 03:34:49 PM »

Merry Christmas to you too!

Beautiful entry and solid progress.

The art of creation is fantastic and the trip is almost as good as the destination

 Gentleman
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #144 on: December 26, 2022, 11:55:56 AM »

Happy Christmas to you Smiley Nice summary!

Some really pretty new pictures, and nice to get an angle facing the cave opening from the inside this time. The team is doing amazing. Looking forward to hearing some audio too.

I think your pace has seemed good so far anyway Shrug Best of luck for 2023!
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Alain
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« Reply #145 on: December 30, 2022, 10:18:00 PM »

In my eyes you made amazing progress! It is great to hear the private demo gave you the feedback you needed and I'm especially excited for news on the challenges of voice acting. Love the new art as always Wink
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oldblood
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« Reply #146 on: January 16, 2023, 12:50:04 PM »

Thank you Alain, Prinsessa, and Ramos! Appreciate all the encouragement and feedback from each of you. Hope your 2023's are off to a great start.

DEVLOG XXVII - CHANGES TO TRAITS & LEVELS

I kicked off the New Year by replacing the existing system I had in place for Traits & Skills. In the initial build, the game rewards the player's decisions with points in Diplomacy, Strategy, or Willpower based on the style of play they adopt. The more consistent you in an area, the more of that score you will accumulate. This portion of the system I believe works well and helps the player not only feel rewarded with decisions, but also encourages them to keep their decisions consistent. These points could be used periodically with optional "Special Decisions" where the player could choose to spend the skills they've accumulated--much like a Resource--and in return get access to unique outcomes they couldn't otherwise achieve based on the decisions that they've made.

Overall, the system seemed to work and the handful of testers who've played the First Act never really complained about it. However, I've always felt that the system wasn't quite good and that innately developing a skill you have to spend/lose feels like an odd-way to level up a character. It essentially turns skills into a currency (which the game already has). Additionally, I found in the earliest tests that people tended to just save up the Skill points and never spent them. As such, the change I made is relatively simple, it now lets you keep and continue to build the skills you have, and instead presents the player with a special decision where their level in that skill is tested based on:

  • How much of that skill you've accumulated.
  • How good (or intelligent) the character is at the skill you're trying to leverage against them.
  • How difficult the scenario is you're attempting to overcome.

Now, the game will now show you the odds or % of success you will have for each special decision, as well as what you stand to gain or lose by attempting to use this special decision. Essentially, performing a skill check with some RNG. Now, I think that RNG can be a good or a bad thing. It does add a certain element of "gamey-ness" that can be fun, but it can also feel punishing if its not positioned well. My hope is that this new system will never feel punishing because:

  • You don't have to make the special decision. It's always an optional path.
  • You can never "lose" the game by failing a Skill test. You just may lose something else or upset someone.
  • You have a clear understanding of what you stand to Gain or Lose. So the risk you take is on you as the player.
  • If you're good enough at any one skill, you may have 100% odds of success depending on the scenario.

New Skills system shows you what you stand to gain or lose on a Special Decision.

TLDR: My hope is that the new system will have a bit more of an 'RPG-Lite' feeling by turning these Skills into Levels that can be built up. But let me know your thoughts: Do you think this change is a good or bad idea?

While on the topic of 'RPG-Lite' narrative games, I have also finally gotten around to starting to replace the placeholder art for the Inventory Items that are in the first act of the game. While it is really just a small thing of replacing out some sprites, its usually the small things that really end up helping a project feel like its starting to come together so that was nice to see.

Profile Screen: Showcasing the new Inventory artwork. The player can also see their skills, maps, and journal.

IN OTHER NEWS--I'm finally starting to dabble a bit in music exploration, which is exciting. I've also cast the role of the Narrator for the game and I'm REALLY excited to share that with you all, but it's "hush hush" for now. But, teaser, it will be a pretty big reveal! Between the music, shoring up the first act of the game, and starting to get some narration work in, I'm hoping that a Teaser trailer will be on the horizon in the next month or two. We shall see. Slowly but surely plodding forward and more devlogs to come on each of these topics.

Thanks for reading and following along!
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #147 on: January 17, 2023, 04:40:46 PM »

Lovely update! Everything introduced here seems good to me. Inventory screen and icons look good too. Are the white elements going to stay that way or be coloured in? Looking forward to hearing the narrator Grin
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fall_ark
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« Reply #148 on: January 17, 2023, 09:10:35 PM »

Now, the game will now show you the odds or % of success you will have for each special decision, as well as what you stand to gain or lose by attempting to use this special decision. Essentially, performing a skill check with some RNG. Now, I think that RNG can be a good or a bad thing. It does add a certain element of "gamey-ness" that can be fun, but it can also feel punishing if its not positioned well. My hope is that this new system will never feel punishing because:
  • You don't have to make the special decision. It's always an optional path.
  • You can never "lose" the game by failing a Skill test. You just may lose something else or upset someone.
  • You have a clear understanding of what you stand to Gain or Lose. So the risk you take is on you as the player.
  • If you're good enough at any one skill, you may have 100% odds of success depending on the scenario.

New Skills system shows you what you stand to gain or lose on a Special Decision.

TLDR: My hope is that the new system will have a bit more of an 'RPG-Lite' feeling by turning these Skills into Levels that can be built up. But let me know your thoughts: Do you think this change is a good or bad idea?

Narrative-wise, it's easier to treat skills as tests instead of resources, so I would agree with the change.

The thing with percentage-based skill challenges with clearly laid-out outcomes in RPG games is that players tend to save-scum for the best or at least the good options. Unless you are super committed to a no-savescum style, such options will make basic options almost meaningless. Maybe throwing in some options that are not strictly good or give players extra things to work with? I think one of Disco Elysium's strongest points is that many skill-checks aren't strict "pass and win, fail and lose" situations, and that encourages players to just embrace what they want to do instead of worrying too much about risks and rewards.


On the opposite end, strict all-or-nothing skill checks often lead to needs of walkthroughs and min-maxing especially if the requirements get steadily higher, but decision-wise they would feel more concrete and impactful. Some games will give tiered options based on skill levels, and you don't necessarily gain the best rewards with the toughest options (e.g. maybe you gain more money but lose some relationship points/reputation etc., or even antagonize friendly characters into battles) I think those feel much more meaningful and interesting than simple bonuses.

Of course, all these usually require much more writing and related resources to implement, so in the end you have to decide whether it's worth this level of attention, but as a player that's my feelings towards this issue.
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Alain
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« Reply #149 on: January 18, 2023, 01:20:58 AM »

I already said this briefly on your Discord: I am really excited for the RPG elements in Moonbriar. I'll play your game no matter what, of course, but if I didn't know you and stumbled across the game, this would be the reason why I'd consider playing, because visual novels usually are not my genre.
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Ramos
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« Reply #150 on: January 20, 2023, 08:22:56 AM »


TLDR: My hope is that the new system will have a bit more of an 'RPG-Lite' feeling by turning these Skills into Levels that can be built up. But let me know your thoughts: Do you think this change is a good or bad idea?


I think this is a good addition to the game, an addition that brings a good depth foundation to the gameplay.

But I also think you must be really careful on your target audience, making too complex RPG mechanics may bring the risk of losing casual players.
But a perfect balance of these mechanics can bring you both casual and hardcore players.




So far from what I read the mechanics are just juicy enough to attract a certain amount of hardcore players and user friendly enough not to lose casual players. The path seems good
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oldblood
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« Reply #151 on: January 22, 2023, 09:24:31 AM »

Thanks for the comments and feedback everyone!

Are the white elements going to stay that way or be coloured in? Looking forward to hearing the narrator Grin

A lot of the UI is placeholder--there is a chance it could stay if I dont have the time or resources to get around to re-doing it all, but yes, ideally it'll get replaced. Just farther down the to-do list right now. I assume you don't care for it? And yes, I'm VERY excited to talk about the narrator.  Grin

The thing with percentage-based skill challenges with clearly laid-out outcomes in RPG games is that players tend to save-scum for the best or at least the good options. Unless you are super committed to a no-savescum style, such options will make basic options almost meaningless. Maybe throwing in some options that are not strictly good or give players extra things to work with? I think one of Disco Elysium's strongest points is that many skill-checks aren't strict "pass and win, fail and lose" situations, and that encourages players to just embrace what they want to do instead of worrying too much about risks and rewards.


On the opposite end, strict all-or-nothing skill checks often lead to needs of walkthroughs and min-maxing especially if the requirements get steadily higher, but decision-wise they would feel more concrete and impactful. Some games will give tiered options based on skill levels, and you don't necessarily gain the best rewards with the toughest options (e.g. maybe you gain more money but lose some relationship points/reputation etc., or even antagonize friendly characters into battles) I think those feel much more meaningful and interesting than simple bonuses.

Of course, all these usually require much more writing and related resources to implement, so in the end you have to decide whether it's worth this level of attention, but as a player that's my feelings towards this issue.

You always give such detailed and thoughtful responses, fall_ark. Thank you. Save scumming is an issue thats difficult to prevent if the player is really committed to never failing at anything. The game does auto-save at the end of every conversation. So you can't save pre-decision and then make your choice and re-load. But, you can hypothetically load to the last completed conversation and try again with a loss of progress (needing to travel back to where you were, have that same conversation again, and hope you pass it on the next go, etc). So its not like you can't save scum, its just that it wont be very fun to do it.

Disco Elysium is probably the pinnacle of a skill check fail being interesting and the player finding that failure interesting. Not sure I can compete with it, but I do try to ensure that the special decisions with skill checks don't really make or break your story. They allow you to maybe overcome something your previous decisions prevented you from doing--in which case you wouldnt have been able to go down that path anyways--or they present opportunities to gain or lose something while still continuing on the path you're on. Whether or not thats a good enough balance remains to be seen, but its how I'm trying to approach the special decisions.

I already said this briefly on your Discord: I am really excited for the RPG elements in Moonbriar. I'll play your game no matter what, of course, but if I didn't know you and stumbled across the game, this would be the reason why I'd consider playing, because visual novels usually are not my genre.

I appreciate the kinds words as always! Glad to see some of these other elements making it more interesting to you. They're definitely very rudimentary versions of these features in an "actual" RPG but my hope is that they're inclusion does spice it up a little bit. Honestly, these types of things are all becoming par for the course on narrative games. These days they all seem to require more than just reading and decisions.

But I also think you must be really careful on your target audience, making too complex RPG mechanics may bring the risk of losing casual players. But a perfect balance of these mechanics can bring you both casual and hardcore players.

Glad you're liking it! Agree its a tricky balance to strike, although these "RPG-Lite" features are really pretty rudimentary so I don't think there is any real risk of scaring off casual players as they're just too simple as-is. i.e. there may be like 12-20 total inventory pieces in the whole game, you're never juggling hundreds of inventory items or needing to get rid of items to store more, etc. and the Skills are all simple and just grow based on your decisions. You dont even pick which skills to grow, its decided as your decisions play out. But as you said, its a balance. Hopefully what I'm doing is working. Mostly, I'm more worried honestly about people wanting "more" RPG features but maybe I'm good as-is?
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #152 on: January 22, 2023, 09:55:56 AM »

For what it's worth, personally I really appreciate it when a game allows me to play it my way, especially on repeat playthrus Smiley Savestates or the like really help encourage me to try more different paths when I don't have to replay so much just to experiment a bit, while being optional~
« Last Edit: January 22, 2023, 11:03:44 AM by Prinsessa » Logged

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