Well, missed last weeks update due to holiday craziness. I worked as much as I could, but it was pretty difficult to sneak time in for it between everything else that was going on. I’ve mostly been working on a whole lot of small miscellaneous improvements, so it’s a bit difficult to sum up my progress over the last couple weeks.
I roughed out a Monologue class. I’ve been saying for a while that this game needs a dialogue system, but, for this particular project, I can assume only one person is going to be speaking most of the time, in a very specific way, and I can make a lot of assumptions on that basis. I think making this assumption very clear will allow me to code more easily and, in the end, present the final version much more elegantly – but this system still has a ways to go, and I haven’t entirely decided how I want to approach it yet. This is far more of a design challenge than a technical one: The difficult part is not in figuring out how to achieve the system, but in figuring out what exactly I want the system to achieve. Hopefully in a day or two I’ll have a solid idea of what I want.
I also added a system for keeping track of entities when they’re not actually active, by giving each entity a unique ‘signature’ based on its starting position. Using this, I should be able to write code affecting whether and how entities spawn, which will be useful for, for instance, making it so a defeated enemy no longer respawns. There’s a problem with this system, though: If I move the entity to a new location while editing the level, the stored signature is different from the new one. Not sure if or how I’ll be addressing this, but it is something worth keeping in mind as I move forward in case it causes problems further down the line.
I went through and did a lot of tweaks to the different editors, ranging from bug fixes to small new features to slight interface improvements. There’s a handy dandy grid on the tile editor now, making it easier to line up passageways between levels. I made a bunch of tweaks in editors and elsewhere to make things behave more smoothly and predictably, fixed a couple of issues with controller input and with the player sticking to surfaces, debugged and streamlined transitions between maps and levels.
So, for the last couple of weeks, no huge changes, but lots and lots of little ones. As I get closer and closer to making these editors the toolset that I actually use every day for the next couple of years, I find it increasingly urgent to really try and get it running smoothly and intuitively.
Also, during a bit of downtime during the holidays, I did this sketch of Eve:
I left the mask blank, after drawing it a number of ways, partially out of frustration and partially to demonstrate here the reasons why I was frustrated. There’s a few things I want to capture in this character design: I want her to seem otherworldly, humanoid but not quite human. Towards that, I exaggerated her slenderness and the length of her limbs, and I gave her a physically impossible ‘mask’. The problem with the elongated body and limbs is that, in this world of crazy and exaggerated art designs, and seeing her by herself, it doesn’t necessarily read as unusual. It’s not clear that this is anything different than whatever the standard human anatomy is in this world. And, for at least the first chapter of the game, it will probably remain this way: Heck, maybe it will work out better because of it, and it will increase the impact when we see her next to actual humans and see the differences that we’d previously overlooked. So maybe it will work out! Nevertheless, in the moment when I’m drawing and trying to capture this strangeness, it is frustrating.
The second problem is similar to the first, and illustrated here:
The mask is supposed to have three equidistant holes in it, each going deep into a void. Here’s the problem: It’s actually really really difficult to put three holes approximately where a human face would be and have it not be read visually as a human face! In the first version, on the left, even though the two parallel holes are well under where the eyes would normally be, they still look like eyes under a huge forehead with a third eye in the middle. In the second, middle version, the two on top look like eyes, even though they’re right on top of the head, and the bottom one looks like a mouth. The only way to avoid this problem even slightly is to make it so the holes are two on one side and one on the other… which just straight-up doesn’t look that great, because the mask is no longer symmetrical. And, honestly, it still kind of looks like the hole on the right is an eye.
Frankly, I don’t think either of these problems really have solutions. I’m probably just going to have to live with them as I go. I thought it might be interesting for some of you to read about some of the challenges of this dang character design, though. On balance, I think the one on the left is probably the best. Perhaps I could do better if I tried changing the shape of the mask, though. Dunno! Fortunately I don’t have to decide right now.