Saturday, July 23, 2016

Echoes of the Old War Update

Current status:

I realize that I haven't made any updates since... April (shit).  Uh...  I've been editing?  A lot.  Such to the point that I've been shelved the novella I was going to write on the side for now.  I'll probably pick it up again, but for right now, I just want to focus on this game.

Everything is going fine with Echoes of the Old War, and any doubts that I had about the narrative are (mostly) melting away.  I still have lots of work to do on it, and can foresee at least two more editing and re-writing passes happening.  There might be more as I get into actually programing the game and find that certain things do and don't work and maybe come up with new ideas on how to approach certain story elements.

I haven't had any developer diaries in the last couple of months since I don't really have anything interesting to say other than, I'm editing.  Any changes that I talk about would be in a vacuum and would make little to no sense.  I've considered dropping a meditative or two here as I work out certain problems, but those are usually unedited, dry, and lack certain contexts.  Let's face it, things like that are only really interesting to crazy people like me who are interested in creative process.

So in short...  I'm editing.  Once I get in to the learning process of programming the game and doing all of the animations, I'll have a little bit more to talk about.  But for now, back to the writing cave.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Echoes of the Old War - DevDiary #8 - Clothes and Toys

As of late, my weeknights have been devoted to working on character concepts not just for the major characters of Echoes of the Old War, but also the minor characters. When I first started this process, I was originally just trying to figure out what Auryon’s world might look like and how her kin and enemies might dress. But as I get deeper into the project, I find myself asking very specific questions in regards to who these people are. Not just as societies, but as individuals as well. Most of the characters that I’m working on don’t have names. They would just be in the background going about their lives.

Posing these questions seems obvious to a seasoned character designer, but doesn’t always seem like a necessity to someone of more amateurish quality (like myself). While you want a main character to appear unique from the crowd, why would you want a secondary or minor character to appear unique? That’s just extra work, and doesn’t really matter. Right?

Well, no, as it turns out. While I certainly will design generic characters to fill the background - especially ones just going about their day to day lives - designing some characters who don’t necessarily have names the player will ever hear, but have unique appearances go along way in fleshing out the environment that Auryon lives in. Not only that, but thinking about the quality of the clothes that these characters might be wearing can go miles to helping to establish the current state of living conditions that Auryon occupies. Each piece of clothing, how they decorate their surroundings, and how they move can tell the audience a small story about a single minor character, and lend to the world as a whole.

One prime example of this is the Cantina scene in A New Hope. In only a few minutes, we see that this is a galaxy full of a variety of living beings, each escaping the double suns of a desert planet to drink or talk with friends, listen to some grooving tunes, conduct or search for business, or look for their next mark. We see beings argue, we see the bar tender kick droids out of his bar, we see a small bat-like being desperately trying to get a drink, and we even see someone try to rough up some farmboy thinking he’ll be an easy mark. More than a few books have been written expanding on this brief scene, but enough is there to tell the audience exactly what they need to know about this bar: Luke Skywalker isn’t in Kansas anymore.

Another good example of this brief and implicit storytelling tool comes from Cowboy Bebop. Specifically, all the ways that the minor characters decorate their living space and what sort of clothes they wear. Often these characters have only a few lines and serve to just direct the crew of the Bebop to their next clue, but even with this short glimpse, we learn everything that we need to know about each. In the episode Heavy Metal Queen, V.T., a space trucker, asks around looking for another trucker who may be carrying a bomb. The camera cycles through different characters, each spreading the word and passing information. In this brief moment, we see a burly man who has decorated his truck cockpit with plushies and toys, we see one who has several red Chinese lanterns behind him, and yet another surrounds himself with guns, ammunition, and plants (I’m sure all totally legal). These characters only appear for a few seconds each, but in those few seconds, the audience instantly gets an idea of who they are.

This type of storytelling is absolutely necessary for any story to last in memory. While I know this is my first video game, I would certainly like to give it a chance to last beyond the first play through. As such, I’ve begun to ask these questions as I design concepts for characters. How would they fill their space? What would they wear that’s different from those around them? And more societal questions such as how would the Tenants (the leaders of the three castes of the Forn - Auryon’s tribe) identify themselves? How would the Forn, which came from a military background, identify honored members of their tribe? Would each caste of the Forn have different types of honors, and what would those look like? Also, where did the Forn come from? I know it was a military background, but where within the Coalition did those soldiers come from?

In the process of writing the story for Echoes of the Old War, several of these questions were naturally answered. The Forn receive their tribal name and the name for the area around them, Thrihun, from their original Brigade, the 300th Foreign Brigade. The name of their village is a corruption of the brigade’s nickname: Bandog from “Band of Dogs.” Not only does this indicate that the war had reached a point where foreign legions were being used in major engagements, but these foreign legions probably weren’t looked upon fondly. As such, they probably weren’t well equipped, requiring their logistics units to be more creative in supplying their brigade, and much of their equipment probably came from the foreign lands they were from, so there’s probably a degree of variation in weapons and armor. This also suggests that the Forn have a variety of skin tones and various racial features.

As this is two centuries down the road, much of this old equipment has probably been lost to time and replaced with equipment and gear that had to be made from resources found within the Thrihun - primarily wood from trees and some salvaged metals. Wood tools, weapons, and armor most likely have more variation based on the craftsman or the person who created such gear. Since the metal is salvaged, however, it would probably have to be more regular in appearance as to conserve material, as well as would look a bit more corroded. On that topic, inheritance is likely a crucial part of Forn society as tossing out old armor, weapons, or tools when they could be repaired would seem like insanity.

Now we start to get a picture of where a character’s tools and surroundings might come from. But what does that mean to them? As mentioned, some armor or tools might be hold overs from the Old War, so there may be some significance in that, but is there a certain value that a person gets in receiving their armor, bow, or hammer from their father, mother, or some other family member? I don’t see why not, but how would that look in the design?

If a Nader (word from grenadier; a caste within the Forn that serves as heavy infantry) had armor that still displayed the original Brigade logo, what might that look like? From whom did she get that armor and what does it mean to her? What sort of damage has that armor received? If she’s a Nader, and her family have been Naders since the Old War, then this armor has probably seen some action as Naders are usually found on the front lines of any conflict. It’s probably seen several heavy blows and would be dented, and may have even been breached once or twice, requiring patch jobs. The 300th’s logo is likely coming off and faded, so she probably takes great care when washing the armor. This would mean that her armor probably lacks rust as compared to others due to her minimal use of water.

As mentioned before, Naders are usually found on the front lines, but even the shock troopers of the Forn must have a home. Anyone who took such care of their armor, probably also cares quite a bit about their living space. Chances are, she might decorate her home (both inside and outside) with trophies. With her armor being inherited, many of these trophies would be passed down to her for display to show that she comes from a long line of fighting against the Claive (the Forn’s enemies from the Old War). Claive weapons, hung upside down to represent their defeat, torn flags, and other treasures taken from raids and attacks adorn her walls, each with their own story. Although, she has likely left room for her own battle trophies from victories to come.

But what about a Logger (word from logistics; the working caste of the Forn) who serves as a doctor for Bandog? He probably takes great care of his surgical tools. While he may not necessarily understand why, he knows that it’s imperative to keep these tools clean and covered when not in use. The satchel that he carries them in is probably kept clean as well, and might even be sewed in such a way to prevent dirt from easily getting into the bag. While he may wear his hair long and scruffy as a point of personal preference, he may tie it back to prevent it getting in his way as well as contaminating any wounds that he might be working on. He probably also keeps a canteen of water to help clean wounds or provide the injured a drink. His clothes, though, are likely stained from past patients; especially since he can’t simply toss them away like a modern doctor may be able to.

I imagine that this doctor might work quite a bit away from his home, as sometimes its just not practical or safe to move someone who is severely injured any distance, and it’s often better for the sick to remain in their own homes to prevent the spread of disease. As such, his home probably appears more of a home than a place of work. Being older, he might have several grandchildren for whom he keeps toys around. Out of habit, he’s probably fairly cleanly, so most of these toys are probably in good shape and put up until his grandchildren return (at which point, they almost certainly get torn back down for play). He seems like the sort that might be very happy to tell you about his grand kids and wants you to know about them, so these toys are probably kept on prominent display. He also probably has a space in his home devoted to drying herbs for medicinal use. This area, since he has grand kids, is probably built in such a way to prevent little ones from getting in to the wrong herbs. As such, he has to stand while working there, so a comfortable chair is probably kept nearby for him to rest in.

It’s details like this that I need to keep in mind as I’m illustrating these characters. It’s very likely that players may never notice the toys prominently displayed in the doctor’s home, or that there’s minimal rust on on particular Nader’s armor as compared to others. Even fewer will catch the clues that “Forn” is a corruption of the word “foreigner,” eluding to the lineage of Auryon’s tribe.

That doesn’t matter, though. Without these details, the world that I’m creating for the player just won’t feel alive. More observant players will pick up on these queues and be more appreciative of the game at large because of this. If I can get one person to say, “Huh. That’s neat,” or, “Oh. I didn’t notice that the last time I played,” I will consider all of the extra effort put in to these details worth the work.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Echoes of the Old War - DevDiary #7 - Language

When I first sat down to write The Echoes of the Old War, before it had that name, I knew that I wanted language to be a theme in the story - whatever form that story would take. It seemed like a natural choice based on the other themes that I wanted to work with. It also certainly helped that I could immediately see ways to integrate it not only into the story, but also the game play.

Originally, the story was going to have two protagonists: a male named Archwood (Archie for short) who the player would directly control, and Auryon who the player would team with to solve puzzles. One of the main game play aspects was going to be the idea that Archie and Auryon spoke in very different languages. As a result, they would have trouble interacting initially. As their relationship developed and the game progressed the characters would figure out ways to communicate with each other; either in the form of a sort of sign language, or through Archie slowly learning Auryon’s language and vice versa. This would reflect in game play as the player would receive commands that allowed the pair to interact in someway to bypass certain puzzles or obstacles in the game.

I started to realize that this aspect of game play caused conflicst with some of the other themes, and sent some messages that I didn’t really want to send. In trying to figure out the source of the issue, I ultimately ended up cutting Archie from the game, changing Auryon a little to compensate and making her a more complete character. But I still liked the idea of language as a central theme. I felt that it was integral to the other themes in play in the story, so it was important to retain.

In the next iteration of the story, I envisioned Auryon as a sort of Matron-in-Waiting. This position required her to travel beyond her village for trade and diplomacy in place of the Matron, who at this point was too old to easily travel far distances. This meant that Auryon would have to speak the different languages around her village at least to some degree of competency. Early on, I came up with the idea of a sort of trade language that would allow her to communicate with certain groups beyond her borders.

There were a few problems with this solution.

Whenever Auryon would speak in this trade language, or the languages around her, I would always just have to translate it to English (or whatever regional language the game was in). Effectively, this means that the player would never really be able to tell what dialect the characters were speaking in. There are a couple of ways to do this visually such as showing the words in their original language and script, and then providing a translation, but it still didn’t alleviate the issue as the player would most likely just look at the translation rather than the original text.

The trade language would also end up defeating the main idea of the theme. Language is a very important tool in society, and even when two different classes within the same culture are using the same language, differences in dialect can often act as a border or barrier within the culture itself. Without the necessary work of either learning another language or dialect, or figuring out some other method of communicating, societal and cultural divides will form with no way to bridge the gap. The trade language bridges this issue in one simple step, thus missing the entire point of the theme.

Ultimately, this version of the story fell to re-writes. Not necessarily because of the issue with this particular theme, but it certainly contributed. While Auryon was able to impart and receive necessary information, the characters that she wasn’t able to communicate with had to fade into the background. When those particular characters are key to the story, this becomes a significant problem.

The current version (which I’m very happy to say that I’m on the fifth act of at this point, with only one left to go) is much more scaled back in comparison to the previous, making it a little bit more realistic for me to actually tackle. Again, Auryon’s position within her village, Bandog, has changed. No longer is she next in line to be the leader of her village. Now she is merely a simple hunter (fuseer in her language). She is one that has received honors in the past, but not one as high as any of the Tenants of the village (who act as aides for the village leader, known as the Capsman).

Where in the previous version, Auryon was going to interact with many small tribes, villages, and even large cities, in this version, she’ll really only be interacting with one or two tribes. One of these tribes comes from the same culture that Auryon’s own came from, so there is a degree of similarity between their respective languages (English or the regional language for the player), although dialects are very different with each culture having evolved their language from the original root. The other tribe, the Clave, speaks a very different language from Auryon’s, having come from a very different culture.

With the two tribes only really interacting through war and conflict, they struggle to understand each other when they need to. There are a few in each tribe (particularly the tribal leaders) that understand the other’s language, however, someone as low as Auryon or some of the other characters would only have a very marginal understanding at best. Auryon knows a few phrases, but only just. She still has issues catching the meaning trying to be conveyed to her.

As Auryon struggles to understand what’s going on around her, so will the player (within reason obviously; I still want the game to be both playable and fun). While players may not necessarily be able to understand the language that’s being spoken, I’m writing it in such a way that they’ll be able to understand the context. More observant players should be able to even start to interpret some of the words being used, or, at the very least, pick out the more important words and their meaning.

This will help push the idea of language back into the forefront of the game, as well as support the surrounding themes. On top of that, it will also return language to being a puzzle within the game. While it’s one that the game won’t necessarily register as being “solved,” it will serve a very important narrative purpose: to act as a border or barrier for the player to ultimately overcome.

In many ways, this game is taking shape, despite its still very early stage. With one of its important cornerstones locking into place, I’m quite happy with how this draft is coming along. While many - many - revisions are necessary, I feel that something is finally starting to coalesce around the initial idea into something that I’m actually enjoying. Weird.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Echoes of the Old War - DevDiary #6 - Helping the Clave

What follows is a meditative that I wrote in an attempt to hammer ashort section in the fourth act of Echoes of the Old War.  This certainly contains spoilers, so consider yourself warned.  During this act, Auryon will need to help an antagonistic village in order to get in good (enough) with their Elders.  I wanted to spend a little time figuring out these short little puzzles that would, ideally, help do a little bit of world building by illustrating how Auryon's enemies live (in contrast to her own tribe).

Keep in mind that this is all stream-of-consciousness stuff.  Absolutely nothing of what follows is edited in any way aside from what I may have done on the fly.  There will be spelling and grammar mistakes, some of these sentences are guaranteed to make absolutely no sense, and many of these paragraphs will jump around.  This isn't to mention the fact that I've already completed writing this section within the story, and I'm fairly certain a few of these ideas have been changed already; add a few extra drafts into that and some of this stuff may change dramatically in the final product.

So... uh.  You've been warned.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

DevDiary #6 - Character Concepts

 Auryon Concept #1

I've been working a lot with character design recently - particularly thinking about the sort of clothes that they wear and how to start differentiating the different tribes.  Auryon, being the main protagonist of the game, has been the main focus of this.  She needs to be fairly iconic to stand out, without being too garish, and her clothes and gear need to make sense for her world.

The first concept that I produced for her (above) was a good start, but I started to realize that there were several issues with it.  The dress seems impractical for a hunter to wear, and its design seem unnecessarily complicated for something to be wearing on a daily basis.  Also, the armor seems to be a bit under designed for a tribe that comes from a military history.  I like the idea of the spaulders, and may explore them again in the future, but I need to find someway to make the leather strap make sense or to visualize how the slats may be held together.  Right now, it looks like I just came up with the idea without thinking about how they work (which is, honestly, what happened).

Boo on the bow.

Auryon Concept #2
The second concept for Auryon, I feel is a much stronger representation (although could do with a little bit more work).  You can see between the two images within, that I've darkened Auryon's skin somewhat, and it may go darker before I'm done.  The armor is a much nicer design - taking inspiration from Japanese wood armors - but I think I'm going to smooth is somewhat as the different segments don't really read well at a distance.  I think I prefer the version without the spaulders here (although it's probably difficult to tell that she's missing them due to her pose).  I feel that overall, her clothes are much more practical for someone who will be climbing through a forest, falling in rivers, and fighting a mad despot.

In working concepts for some of the other character's in Auryon's tribe, I've realized that her armor feels very clean and new.  While Auryon would certainly take very good care of it, that armor would still need to show it's age and that it has seen some action.  Also, I much prefer Auryon's bow here, although, I'm still probably going to end up re-working it a few more times before I'm satisfied.  Part of the problem is that this is one of the first bows that I've ever drawn, so the proportions seem a bit off, even for a short bow.  Plus, it looks like it would snap upon drawing back the string, so it needs to be thickened a little to make it look like it could really stand the test of a fight.

Finally, while I like the hair style, I think I'm going to drop it.  Her hair is so dark, it's difficult to tell even close up what's going on with it.  The French braid wrap just doesn't read with the dark hair, and with the back wrapped up, the curliness gets somewhat lost.  Having curly hair my self, I've kind of learned to just let it fall where it does.  I see no reason why Auryon wouldn't do the same.

Possl Tall Concept #1
 Possl Talls clothes are really bright and almost neon.  I think I'm almost certainly darken the green significantly to much more of an Earth tone.  I think that part of the problem is that my Cintiq is getting old and so the colors are a bit more dull on that screen.  Otherwise, Tall hails from a much swampier area than Auryon, so I do like his pallet being very different from hers.  It also conveys a certain degree of sickliness that will become important in the story.

When I next revisit his concept, I'm going to need to put more weight to his clothes.  Both because the would legitimately need to keep him warm, but also because he comes from an area permeated with water.  In order for him and his fellow tribesmen to survive, they need their clothes to keep the water out. They also need to appear as though they've been worn a little bit.  Everything in Possl Tall's tribe is a bit more worn down in comparison to what Auryon's tribe has, owing partly to the fact that Tall's tribe came from a group of people who weren't particularly good craftsmen.

As some can probably tell, I took his thin facial features and hair style from Sting in Dune.  It gave him a really solid unhinged and calculating appearanceWith this look, I can easily imagine him as a demagogue shouting rhetoric while casting devastating, uncontrolled spells.  I feel that I do need to re-work it a bit more so that his silhoutte reads a bit better, also so that his face tells a bit more of a story.  I really need him to have a history, but I don't want to be particularly explicit about it.

Everything that I'm working on at this point is still very much first draft.  Currently, aside from still writing the script for the game, I've been working heavily on character concepts so that I can get a feel for what the world might look like.  Right now, I'm working on some of Auryon's fellow tribesmen, and will probably move from there to other supporting characters.  I will almost certainly circle back to these two and work them more as I get more of a feel for the world that they inhabit as well as the battles that they have both fought.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

(No Longer) Untitled Game - DevDiary #5 - Title Time

Okay, it's time to figure out a title for this project. I've worked nearly twelve months on this project, restarted the script once, I have a clear idea of where it needs to go, and what needs to be done to improve it. I need a damn title.

I used to be quite good (I felt) at titles for projects, and would usually come up with a title before principle work began - although, I'm still a little annoyed that I could never find a different title for "The Dublin Man." I was quite proud of The Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses, despite being long; and Express Line Number Seven, despite being shelved, is still a perfect title for that narrative. This one has eluded me for some reason.
Very early on when I first came up with the game, I filed all of the ideas under Talisman; however, I have two problems with that title. The first being that Talisman has very little to do with what's going on in the story. Currently, the Clave (an antagonistic tribe to Auryon's), uses very old talisman from a war long ago in order to cast spells. During the Old War, these talisman acted as a type of "ready-made" spell for the rabble, so the more powerful sorcerers wouldn't have to risk themselves on the battlefield. While Auryon uses one of these talisman in her adventure, and has to deal with several of her opponents using them, they don't really serve as a central theme; merely a world-building tool.
The other problem with the title Talisman is quite simple: I don't like single word titles. They sound like advertisements for perfumes (Obsession, Memories, Talisman - from Calvin Klein). So, Talisman is out.
A title should do one of two things (ideally both). The first is to capture the central themes or ideas from the story in a single, memorable phrase. This will, hopefully, get the audience to think a little bit more about the narrative. The other is to describe the story in a way that informs the audience what they're about to interact with. If a title captures neither of these elements, then it really doesn't serve the narrative at all, and, in fact, can do quite a bit of damage to the narrative that it's trying to support.
The adventure is a tale of Auryon (pronounced as Orion for those who might be unsure), a young woman who is part of the Bandog tribe, that were charged with protecting a city during a war long ago - know as the Old War. Nearly two centuries later, the Bandog are struggling to survive. Resources are running low, the Clave (their opponents during the Old War) still fight them from across a river, and all contact with the heroes of the Old War was long ago severed. A brutal attack from a member of the Clave, known as Possl Tall, leaves the Bandog leaderless and vulnerable. In her dying order, the Bandog Capsman (the leader of the Bandog) tells Auryon to find Possl Tall and stop him. Now in their darkest hour, Auryon strikes out into forbidden territory to stop Possl Tall and his grab for power.
In this description, there are a few ideas that I might be able to turn into a title. The Tales of the Bandog comes to mind quickly. It's a bit silly with the made up word, but the there are allusions within the narrative as to where that word came from. It's also a bit too generic, but it is a start. The Old War has the same problem of being a little too generic, however, it will work with some of the themes going on. I have in my notes The Empty City (the city that the Bandog protect is largely abandoned). This does draw the reader in as an interesting idea, but is a little misleading because the city in the story - while important - is really only a portion of the events that lead Auryon and the Bandog to their current situation.
I work with several themes in the game that could lend additional ideas to a prospective title. While describing the story I mentioned the Old War and the Clave. The Bandog and the Clave represent two much larger opposing cultures from the Old War; both tribes being descendants of battalions or companies that fought in a single battle of a much larger war. Certain events occurred to cut both tribes off from their respective commands. Without news or orders, both continued with their mission to defeat the other. This results in two tribes with a very long-lasting blood feud that neither really fully understand. This idea of culture clash repeated over time, and the scars produced there of, is a central theme.
The theme of language is also currently playing a heavy role. The Bandog and the Clave speak in very different languages from each other, making communication between the two old enemies difficult. To compound this issue, neither come from a particularly educated people. Their ancestors were soldiers entering a war that had already been going on for at least a decade or more. The respective cultures wouldn't have risked the most intelligent on the front line of a war that had essentially become a meat grinder. The two tribes can barely understand each other, and both of their languages have changed in the face of isolation.
There are other themes within the story, but these are the two (three if you count culture clash and old wounds as being separate) themes that I'm mostly focusing on. The challenge with themes is that they are usually very abstract concepts that are difficult to capture in just a few words. With a little bit of thought, the word "echo" comes to mind, capturing both the idea of the remnants of a very old conflict, as well as the sound of spoken words repeated. Added into the previously mentioned titles I get Echoes of the Bandog or Echoes of the Old War.
I think I like the latter a little bit better than the former, if only because it does get the player to think a little more about the themes going on, and it does describe to a degree what the game is about - particularly taking into consideration Possl Tall's motivations.
The problem is, the word "echo" conveys a bit more modern of a setting than I would like. As a word, "echo" means to repeat or copy. Nominally, it is a sound that bounces off a reflecting object to be heard again. It captures the idea of a fading copies of an original. A synonym like "reverberate" is too long and clunky, and "ringing" doesn't quite resonate with the rest of the title.
"Memories," while not a synonym with "echo," invokes the idea of a fading, inaccurate memory, which could work well with the themes. It does have the the drawback of being, perhaps, a little too melodramatic. "Reflection" could work in the place of "memories," but it seems to suggest that Auryon's journey is similar to the events of the Old War, which it really isn't.
I feel that "echo" and "memories" are the strongest words to use in this situation as most of their respective synonyms don't really fit the rest of the title or might convey an incorrect meaning. Of the two, I think I like "echo" a bit better, despite it's drawbacks. Memories of the Old War seems to indicate a little bit more precision in remembering the Old War as well as a little bit more focus on that event. The Old War is really only a very distant backdrop to the events in the story. Echoes of the Old War seems to capture much more of the theme of a very old and dramatic conflict, that is still causing pain today.
No title is ever set in stone. Sometimes, despite a project having been released for years, the creator will still change the title. I'm still just in the first draft of the game at this point, and so much has already changed from the original idea. I'm still not really settled on the "Old War," so that could still change - as could the title. That being said, Echoes of the Old War is certainly better than simply calling it the project. Now that I finally have that out of the way, back to writing the first draft that just won't seem to die.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Uhh... It's Been a Little While

Maybe a bit longer than it should have been.  For the last couple of months, I've been primarily focused on writing the first draft for the project.  I really hope that I'm at least done with the first draft by the end of the year, but at this point, I'm not entirely certain that will be accomplished.  I'm about half way through, so it may be possible, but it's always difficult to tell with writing.

There really hasn't been anything else to post here for two reasons: the first being that I'm focused on writing; and the second being that there's only so many updates that I can post that basically just amount to "still writing" without being repetitive.  I wanted to post something here - no matter how useless - because I do still look at the metrics and see that people are stopping by.  There should be some update here for those of you who are genuinely interested in the progress of the game.

I don't have anything really planned for other side projects to help fill out this space while I'm working on the current one (I seriously have to find a name for this project).  I just really want to be done with this first draft.  Once I get that done and move into other aspects such as editing, programming, and art, I should have more of a personal need to have something else to do.

In the month of November, I'm going to take a break from the current project and start work on another just for the month.  I doubt this will result in anything being posted up here as the new project will be a story that I've had my mind on for a little while that will, at minimum, likely be the length of a novella, but maybe I can post a first draft of a chapter.

Taking on a project of this size certainly has been a challenge.  Outside of working on this project, life has continued to throw wrenches at my head, and slow things tremendously.  You often hear established writers and artists say to always take some time each day to write, draw, paint, etc... regardless of what's gong on in life.  They never talk about the days that you just want to play a video game, watch a movie, or just hang out with a friend or your significant other.  Yes, writing and art is as much a discipline as anything else, but I have to keep reminding myself that there were days when Picasso, Mozart, or Orson Wells said, "fuck it," and had a little break.  I'm still moving forward, no matter how slowly.  The first draft is always the hardest, so, hopefully, things will pick up momentum once I get past this phase.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Let's MAD 12 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

In the final episode of Let's MAD, can Sanjuro stop the evil god-like...  Is...  Is that really what it looks like?  Uh...  No.  No, I'm sure...  I'm sure it wasn't...  Intended to look like that.

Let's MAD 12: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Untitled Game - DevDiary #4 - A New Script

This is really becoming the project that refuses to take form. As of last night, I've spent over 158 hours working on this project over the course of 8 months. I have not been as diligent as I should be with this project (there are many different reasons, but really it can boil down to me just being lazy), so the span of time this has taken is not really surprising. That being said, things are progressing, and I am by no means giving up.

However, this is really becoming the project that refuses to take form. Up until last week, I had been working heavily on the first draft of the project. With seven acts outlined, four written, and the fifth begun, things have been progressing. As with every first draft, problems have been popping up, but nothing much too concerning. There's a leap in logic here, this character knows something that they shouldn't given events, this puzzle isn't as good as it should be, and on. 

As I began work on Act V, I began to realize that there were two critical problems that were going to require me to do some heavy re-working of the current draft. The first and foremost problem - an issue that is directly tied to the fact that it is a game - was the pacing at which Auryon (the player character) picks up new tools and abilities for her to use, as is tradition in Metrodvania games. There was a really heavy balance early in the game to her gaining access to these tools, with very few appearing later in the game. This isn't to mention the fact that these tools also weren't very well thought through, some stopped being used all together, and others had a very heavy overlap of use (i.e. two tools that essentially do the same thing). The second problem with the first draft was that it was probably a bit too ambitious of a script for my first ever video game; at least one that I could accomplish by my self. While I'm certainly confident in my writing abilities and confident that I could produce art of quality enough, I would like to see this project completed in the next decade.

When I realized these problems, I thought that I might stick to completing the first draft. It would help me solidify some ideas, figure things out for the next draft, and maybe hammer out some problems with characters. And it has. In the writing process, however, you have to know when to give up on a draft and just start over. For this project, it was early in Act V, when I realized that I was just making leaps of logic fore the sole purpose of pounding through this draft to just get it done with. I opened my script on Sunday, did a quick glance through on the scene that I was working on, and immediately opened a new page to begin planning the next draft. Nothing that I was going to write down on that scene was going to be useful for me.

With these two problems in mind, I chose to first comb through the first draft for ideas that I would like to keep. A boss fight in which Auryon faces a major antagonist (at the time referred to as the Disciple), in which she must fight through his adds who are willing to sacrifice themselves for their leader. A trenching tool that was originally thought to be just a throw away item, but became surprisingly useful. A puzzle in which Auryon must figure out how to pass through lingering poisonous gas that was used to clear a sapper's tunnel. These are all good ideas that I want to keep and continue to work with. Some may land on the cutting room floor, but there's no reason to scrap them immediately.

Next came scaling back the world to something a bit more manageable. Metroidvania games - the good ones - tend to have a really natural connection between the areas that the player character might travel, so I know that I have to make sure that all of these locations could logically be found in connection to each other. Originally, Auryon was going to go on a journey encompassing five regions, thirteen areas, and several locations in each area. That's quite a bit. I would be working on level design for probably a couple of years.

As mentioned earlier, I knew that I wanted to keep a few areas from the regions in the first draft. Given the setting and themes, there's a city from the first draft would be an excellent central location. While it may not be the starting location for the game, I could very easily see several locations attached to it; a factory, once a hub of development and production, now quiet and haunted by history; a mighty wall that once held an invading enemy at bay, now crumbling and being consumed by the environment; a once beautiful and reverent library filled with an old civilization's knowledge, now long empty. All of these location would provide a visually interesting playground for Auryon (and the player) to explore, and, assuming that I can not completely mess up the art, should individually tell a story that would supplement the central narrative.

Now with some understanding of the locations that I wanted the player exploring, I decided to sit down and hammer out more details about the actual game play, and how new abilities and tools should be paced as compared to the structure of the game's narrative. This will help give writing the coming drafts more direction.

Very early in this step, I realized that I wanted Auryon to have a core set of abilities up front. Running, jumping, climbing, pushing objects, etc... would be all realistically be things that she would be able to do because she is a healthy human being. Given her tribal upbringing, she would likely also know how to use a bow and arrow, know where to find food, which food is safe and which is not, as well as probably be significantly more agile than the average modern day person. I see no reason to lock any of these "abilities" away for her to arbitrarily find or figure out over the course of the game. They would also work in a first act where the player is still learning how to move through the environments.

So what can I provide to Auryon to allow her to advance further in the game, while also provide some interesting puzzles for the player to solve? In the first draft, I hit upon the idea of her using a trenching tool as a sort of universal blunt instrument, and the more I wrote, the more I realized how useful it was. From digging up ancient land mines used to defend a beach, to popping open a barricaded door, to even prying the heavy armor off of a knight to make him vulnerable. This quickly became the model of the sort of tools that I wanted to add in to the game to make the player think in interesting ways.

Science and magic are two themes that I wanted to play around with in the game, so I wanted to include something from both camps that might tell a little about the societies that they came from. From the science camp, I thought that a torch or flashlight might be interesting. While this fairly innocuous item may seem a little useless as compared to the trenching tool, I began to think what if this old society relied heavily on solar energy for power, and really followed a scientific path focused on electricity as a power source? Normally a torch is useful to light dark areas, and it can even potentially be used to attract enemies, or even repel animals that are sensitive to light. If the society uses light as an energy source, however, then it can be used to power machines, and they've likely constructed special locks using light filters, and certain methods of detecting hidden messages using lights.

From the magical camp, I had to think a bit more about what this society might have looked like. Usually, when you think of fantastical magic, you think of dusty old men in dark libraries trying to figure out the next spell, or mad villains desperately trying to grab on to power beyond this world. If magic is a practice of the elite, then is it possible that the average soldier or farmer understood anything about these seemingly impossible powers? If a society doesn't understand magic, can it really be built around magic? It can if the upper oligarchs allow a limited amount of knowledge to trickle down to the lower echelons. This may mean that a common soldier doesn't have to know how to cast a fireball or arc lightning if they have a talisman or a "ready-made" spell of some sort that would preform this task for them.

In this light, I came up with the idea of the bell. This would appear to be the same as a standard dinner bell; a small bell, probably silver or gold, with a wood handle that produces a pleasing sound. In the first draft, this bell was just a bell that Auryon could use to attract human enemies. When I decided to imbue it with magical qualities, I tried to think of what it might do. I realized that the tone that you hear from a bell is nothing but a compression wave passing through the air. In this light, what if the magic tied to the bell manipulated this compression wave to something significantly more powerful? Now an innocuous little bell becomes a weapon that can stun opponents, knock them back, or potentially produce a compression wave strong enough to push a lever at a distance or shatter glass. This provides a lot of new interesting puzzles that can easily be taught to the player, and also could make some potentially interesting boss fights.

Thus far, I've developed six primary tools for Auryon to use in her adventure. I have a feeling that these tools are not yet fully permanent, but this is a great starting point, and I probably won't add too many more to that count. I figure that each act in the story will highlight one of these tools to try and teach the player their uses before moving on. While the narrative acts and tool acts may not precisely line up, this will help keep the player interested and also help keep a fairly regular learning curve.

There are a few game play elements that I'm still not certain as to whether or not they're going to stick around. I had a couple of ideas for "secondary" tools that have very limited use, but still provide some interesting story telling and puzzle elements, as well as a basic crafting system (such as crafting arrows or food to heal or provide boosts to Auryon). I'm not exactly certain if I want to keep the crafting system as I usually dislike crafting systems with a few notable exceptions. I'm going to keep these elements around for now because I have feeling that they'll be nice little additions to the game that won't get in the player's way.

With these two issues hammered out, my current focus as been to form a synopsis of the new version of the story. I was originally hoping to be done with writing by the end of the year, but that seems unlikely now. While this is a set back, I certainly don't want to rush things. There are a lot of really good games out there, so it would be a waste of your and my time to produce something that I am only just okay with. I've worked on projects far longer than I have with this one only to scrap them later on, so I'm certainly not going to be dismayed when things don't get quite right the first time around on this one.

Now, if I can keep from just getting distracted...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Let's MAD 11 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

Today we enter the alternate universe of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, where Sanjuro decides to try and defeat Gabriel (I still don't know who Gabriel is), free his brother, and side with the despotic maniac holding a gun to the world.  Wait, what?

Let's MAD 11: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Let's MAD 10 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

After a month-long hiatus, Let's MAD returns!  Sanjuro has chosen to join a cult, betraying his comrades.  Will he be able to stop Admiral Akarju in time to prevent the Kato Cannon from firing?  Do these words that I'm writing mean anything?  Let's find out.

Let's MAD 10: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It Just Dawned on Me...

...That I should probably have made this post back on Friday.  Lindy (theSardonicGirl) and I are moving into our first condo!  Yeah, this means I'm probably going to be pretty quiet for the month of May as we scramble to get everything wrapped up in our apartment and into the new place.  As you've probably guessed, no new Let's MAD, and probably no new DevDiary.  I'll try and post updates, and it looks like everything is back to normal come June - barring any disasters.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Untitled Game - DevDiary #3 - A Different Kind of Writing

Writing presents many unique challenges.  Making sure that there's an internal logic, keeping and maintaining a voice, being certain that characters speak and act in a way that makes sense for that particular character, etc...  Most of the issues that can come up in writing appear in different formats of writing.  You will always need to check for inconsistencies, you will always need to be sure that your characters sound right, and you will always need to read lines out loud to hear what they actually sound like.  All formats, however, do contain unique challenges.  Writing a short story requires less verbose prose to get points across quickly, comic book writing requires detailed descriptions to convey information to the artist, audio drama scripting forces the writer to convey visual information by different methods than normal.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's MAD 9 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

With the discover of Cothinial, Sanjuro must choose between using the Kato cannon to destroy a Gaian entity that seems to be minding it's own business, whipping out thousands of innocent lives in the process; or joining a mad cult that worships the Gaian entity that doesn't seem to care much, likely whipping out thousands of innocent lives in the process. Which route will he take? Do we honestly care? Let's find out.

Let's MAD 9: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Let's MAD 8 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

What...  What was that last episode?  Wait, I get who Gabriel is, but I still don't get who Gabriel *is.*  Whose Uziel?  If Shogo has a hand in Gabriel, than who are the CNC?  Will this plot finally start making sense?