NaGaDeMo wrap-up

Today marks the first of July and the end of NaGaDeMo. The month has been full of ups and downs – mostly downs – but, as my mother would say, nothing ever goes to waste.

I started off struggling with Twine. Twine, in many ways, is a beautiful tool. It has a lovely visual layout, allows for script importing/exporting and exporting the text for proofreading (VERY handy). Unfortunately, I came up against some of its eccentricities – for instance, it took me quite a few days to work out that links between passages would break when enclosed with quotation marks. I also struggled with the content; my first attempt was a satire of Pokemon, but it quickly devolved into something darker than what I was comfortable with. My second idea was inspired by this article, but I was afraid that I couldn’t do it justice. My third was to have the player play-testing a game with a GLADOS-like guide (yes, very meta meta meta); I had started this idea, when my computer slowly ground to a halt and died.

Happily, I was able to ressurect it a few days later. By this time it was halfway through June and I began to Panic with a capital ” P”. I was able to access  So, I turned to familiar stomping grounds and begun prototyping two ideas- one was a simple endless runner and the other was inspired by Calming Manatee   (manatees are so awesome) – until MonoDevelop decided that it would crash every time I tried to save a script and Unity wouldn’t let me use any other editore. Never thought I’d miss UniSCITE :( . On to GameMaker next – I picked one of their tutorials, as it would be easy and quick to get it up and running. I ended up with a quaint clone of Fruit Ninja that I adapted to an Alice in Wonderland theme – specifically the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Smashing teacups and saucers, etc.

Then I realized that here I was, once again missing an opportunity to make a text-based game (something I had wanted to try out for a long time), so I switched back to Twine and in the last five days made a game. It is not as long or interactive as I would have liked, but it is finished. Even though the result seems short and simple, it totals in 6000 words and the screenshot of the Twine visual map gives you an idea of how complex even a ‘simple’ game like this can be.

So, with my apologies to Thomas Wyatt and other members of history, I present my NaGaDeMo entry:

 

Circa Regna Tonat

 

 

Nagademo, LD48 and other loose ends…

Blowing the dust off the blog for the purposes of Nagademo, but first a little catch-up on what I’ve been doing the last six months.

I’v tried retcon-ing Anima, experimenting with different movement types, porting it over to different engines, looking at implementing some of the suggested features in it, etc. The problem is, that last year, due to being an uni project, it had become so compromised, because of time constraints, technical/artistic ability, close scrutiny, collaborative issues and well-meaning but misleading advice, it had travelled very far from what I had intended. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity to re-make it as I want – but when I tried to sit down and remember what I originally wanted to do with Anima, I struggled to capture the thread of my original intention and am now no longer sure of what I really wanted to say with it. So, I consider Anima to be hermetically sealed away until such time I can find such solutions to ‘fix’ the problems with it.

I have also been protyping with Yena Lowe aka Cake Support, helping her with design of a game revolving around crafting – a favourite element of her’s and mine from RPGs. One of these days, when I have more focus, I’ll finish off writing some quest chains for it. She has a lot of great posts up at her blog, Button Bash Design. She’s also been helping me with some ideas. I’ve gone through a number of concepts, but only two made it to code prototypes: the first was a walljumper, inspired by the leaping in Spider: Secret of Bryce Manor and the wall leaping from Aquaria (wall jumping starts at about 6:43min in). The image is an example of a level design. Two problems with this idea: one, I had extreme difficulty in getting the feeling of movement right – partially due to the limitations of my technical ability, but also because I think I was relying solely on code and needed to add some animation to gain the ‘correct’ feel. Secondly, platformers are far from favorite genre – it takes a pretty special one for me to play it – and all I have for this is a central mechanic and some vague level design ideas – nothing more. So, this one has been put on the shelf until I can come up with way to turn this into something I would want to play.

The second idea was to take the game Flow, add in a RPG-like leveling and skills (not player selected, but assigned to the player based on how they chose to play, ie a player soaking up a lot of damage would gain higher defense and a shield ability) and throw in some light bullet hell elements. Oh, and it would be starring a phoenix gliding in the sky and being reborn, instead of an evolving microorganism in the ocean. Yena did some great concept art  and I even got as far as building a movement and parallax prototype (try it here – needs Unity webplayer)…. and then I came across a game which was exactly what I wanted to do with this game (except for the Phoenix elements) and… I didn’t like it. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t soothing. I was struggling conceptually with this idea already and this really threw me for a loop – until I can work out how to transmute (or rebirth, if you will) the idea into something I can enjoy, this is another idea that’s been placed on the backburner.

One of the other things I got up to, was an entry into the #23rd Ludum Dare 48 hour competition - I had wanted to enter for a long time, but this was the first time I actually had time to enter. I had two goals: to finish a game and rate/leave helpful feedback on at least 100 entries (out of 1400!) – I managed to achieve  both, so in that, I am happy with my participation. You can play my game here (again, needs Unity webplayer). Next time I get to enter, I hope to make a better game ie actually have a design from the outset, instead of designing ad hoc.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be immersing myself in the Nagademo for the next month. In the lead-up, I’ve been struggling to come up with a game concept I can finish in the month. I originally come from a writing background and  aspired to find different ways of telling stories via games, but I’ve done precious little exploring of that, so I’ve decided to do so for Nagademo via creating a text adventure. As a player, I’m not very fond of text-parser adventures, as they too often feel like I’m less solving puzzles, than having to be a mindreader of the creator to guess at the correct word combination. I prefer ones that present me with an interesting variety of choices, like Fallen London, Academagia or King of Dragon Pass . I realize that those kinds of games are niche interests. Also, that a lot of people would argue whether choose-your-own-stories are games at all – but, frankly, I find categorisation debates (such as whether games are art) boring and intellectually juvenile. Qualitative arguments(ie what makes a ‘good’ game or how can a game be ‘good’ art?) are a lot more interesting. For myself, a lot of what makes a game a ‘good game’ is player agency or choice – and choose-your-own-stories actually feature a lot more choice than traditionally a lot other game genres and they also engage my imagination, which – outside of sandbox genres – a lot games sadly overlook in their design.

 

So, that’s the format of the game decided – whoch tools should I use? Varytale or Story Nexus look like they’d be perfect, but their tools haven’t yet been released to the public. ChoiceScript, from Choice of Games, looks good, but I’d prefer to work with something more visual and with less of a learning curve, as time is limited. InkleWriter is absolutely gorgeous, but is currently lacking variable tracking, which greatly limits the things that can be done with it. Ren’py is a little too visual – don’t want to spend the month making graphics – and I also don’t have any experience using Python.  Quest looks pretty awesome, but as it’s primed towards parsed text adventures, it’ll be my back-up option.  I’m going to be using Twine, as it features a lovely visual editor, has variables and can also be extended via html and javascript, both of which I am already familiar with.

I have decided my format and “engine” – what about the most important part – content? Good question. Unfortunately, I don’t know – I have ideas, but they are too large in scope for a Nagademo game and would be more suited to the more sophisticated formats of Varytale/Story Nexus . The first week is going to be spent coming up with a loose plot.

If you are interested in interactive fiction, I’ve found two great blogs from masters of the form: Emily Short & Dave Morris.

Also, I should advertise I now have a very bad and unfinished portfolio site. Enjoy and good luck to all the fellow nagademo’ers.