MAGS Day 4 – Splitting headache

Yesterday I didn’t get a lot done because my iPhone broke down and I spent all afternoon fixing it. On top of that I discovered in the evening a few glaring oversights in my dialog engine that required a complete rethink of it’s structure. So yeah, great day…

Today was decidely better. I solved most of the problems I uncovered yesterday, and after a long struggle I got the splitscreen feature working aswell! It’s not perfect but it’ll have to do.

The fun is that the room you are in (the frame on the left) is a scrolling room, so it will keep scrolling as you walk around while the frame on the right (an object) stays in place. 🙂

There’s this strange phenomenon that has happened to me at least a dozen times now where I type up a post on the forums describing the problem and asking for help, and almost always right before I hit the POST button I come up with either a solution or a workaround! It’s a funny thing.

I also sketched out all backgrounds today, so I can finally start building rooms now and get this thing underway proper!

MAGS Day 2 – Off to a good start

Today started off a little slow but I made good progress in the evening.

I decided to really embrace the 24 tropes and make a parody/homage game out of this. This has the added benefit that I don’t have to spend time fleshing out characters since eight seasons of 24 already did that for me! Now I can get right to the meat of writing the story.

Building on the scraps of story I penned yesterday I wrote the full scenario for the game today. I’m trying to avoid what I did with Coyote where I wrote too much story and not enough good puzzles. The first half of the scenario started to feel a bit like that after I wrote it, but I managed to fill it up with more interactivity later.

To keep things simple, I limited the number of locations to 4. I have enough complicated stuff to put in as is, I don’t need more backgrounds to draw. From experience I’ve noticed the art is usually the main thing stalling development, since I get more instant satisfaction from creating and testing a piece of code (a slightly worrying development for an illustrator…). So this was probably a wise decision. And after writing the scenario it turned out one of the four locations was only really needed in a cutscene, so I don’t have to spend as much time on it as the others 🙂

So now the game needed a working title. My first hunch was to name it ’12’, possibly referring to the number of minutes you’d need to complete it. That might be a bit too short thought, so I upped it to 15 minutes.

To start things off I decided to recreate the 24 title sequence for the start of the game. I tracked down the fonts and downloaded some 24 soundtracks, then fired up After Effects. I’m pretty pleased with the result of some simple masking and a few keyframes. I could have made it resemble the source material even closer, but that was not the point of the exercise.

[vimeo 21895542 w=520 h=260]

Now it was time to tackle the biggest feature of the game – the realtime clock. Thankfully Monkey_05_06’s Countdown module could do most of the work for me (I like it when that happens). I slapped it on a GUI and man, it works like a charm. I already experimented with triggering some events at a certain point during the countdown, and so far it seems to work just dandy. The only problem I had was with sound files being triggered more than once (since I check the timecodes in the rep_ex).

I then imported my custom dialog engine and repurposed a few bits to suit this game. Seeing that ingame got me really excited!

My next challenge will be to tackle the splitscreen – another staple of the 24 show. I have a few ideas on how to do it, we’ll see tomorrow which one will work best.

MAGS Day 1 – From vague to viable in one constraint

Every month the AdventureGameStudio forum runs a competition where you build a game in one month following a specific theme. This month the theme is Time. I’ve never participated in MAGS since I usually don’t have time, but this theme sparked an idea in my head. An idea I’ve been throwing around for a while now, based on the tv show 24.

24, as you may or may not know, is a show that purports to portray a full day in the life of special agent Jack Bauer in REALTIME. Every episode is an hour long, with appropriate lulls written into the plot to accomodate commercial breaks. But the funny thing is that during the show Jack never seems to take the time to chow down a sandwich, or even to take a piss. I thought that was interesting, and formed some ideas on how to handle that and convert the format into an adventure game. But nothing conclusive ever came out of that, mostly because there were so many directions you could take it in. So I tucked the concept away in my ideas folder. Until yesterday.

As a freshman in game designer college, me and my classmates all wanted as little restrictions as possible during our assignments. Every constraint the teachers put on us was met with a groan. But over the years we learned that constraints actually benefit your design because they allow you to focus on a specific direction and discard anything that doesn’t match that direction. So too the constraints of MAGS (mainly the time limit, appropriately) suddenly made all those vague ideas click together, and I decided to give it a go.

A month is a decent amount of time to make a small game, but I have plenty of other, more urgent things to do aswell, so I decided on a few more constraints from the onset:

– First and foremost I will keep this game as simple as possible. I can always expand later if I have time left.
– Secondly I want to try out the idea of making everything realtime. That means keeping track of the time the player spends in the game and where he is at when the time limit expires. So that means multiple endings. Woof, okay.
– Thirdly, I wanna use this as a test case for the custom dialog engine I am writing. It’s still very much in beta, but this will be a good opportunity to use it in a real project and see what improvements can be made.

Let’s see how it goes!