Streamlining the Molding

Gamedev Update!

As of right now, there are nine pages left in the testgame (nee The Beard in the Mirror is Yours) (nee testgame) (I really wish we could settle on a name) design document for me to code. That’s nine out of 108 total for the second half of the game (my wife handled the first). After nearly eight years (so far), the end is practically in spitting distance.

…Of course, there’s still little things like “art” and “music” and “sound effects” (and then implementing the art, music and sound effects, for that matter) to worry about, but still—I’m pretty excited about the progress, considering that I don’t actually know what I’m doing. (Man, between coding and the fact that I run races now, fat, math-averse middle-school-era Paul would have no idea who this fine bearded gentleman is.) It’s not unreasonable that I’ll be finished coding this thing within the month—maybe even within the week, depending on how hard it is to make a credits sequence for just two people.

back copySadly, my art skills aren’t progressing as well as my coding skills. I have a feeling my stick-figure placeholders won’t be making the final cut.

It’s been a much different experience from Life in the Dorms, in as much as not only did I write out the story and the interactions and the dialogue—I’m also actually putting them into the game myself. I had to learn how to use Adventure Game Studio (which I was able to do through my efforts with the Unannounced Licensed Adventure Game project, which is sadly looking less and less like it’ll ever be more than a prototype…which is a shame because I’d think there’d be a very big market for games about correcting typos), but they make it so simple that it shouldn’t be a barrier to entry for anyone. Everything you need to make an adventure game is already there; you don’t have to tell the game what an inventory is, or what “talk to” or “look at” mean, because it already has that built-in. You just need to figure out what to do with it.

But what’s been most satisfying is how I’ve been able to mold the game as I play it. Before, when I’d test out a Life in the Dorms prototype, I couldn’t just make small tweaks to the dialogue here and there as I gained a better idea of what the story was, or saw how the script played out when you’re watching it rather than reading it; I had to go through the programmer, Ted …Not that this was ever an issue with Ted; he never once so much as politely asked me to knock it the f*** off (although I’m sure he wanted to) with all the stupid little changes I wanted to make. But now, that process is even more streamlined. If I think it’s absolutely essential that a character be exactly three pixels to the left and say “okay” instead of “all right,” then I can just try it, and see how it works—and then try moving the guy four pixels to the right, and maybe have him say “uh huh,” instead, and then…

…You know, maybe I SHOULD be working with a programmer.

I’ve also been helping out a friend with his project. Former GameCola writer Richo is creating an iOS trivia game (due to come out within the month, with any luck), and I went rapidly from “making sure it works on an iPhone” to “noticing a few typos” to “offering to proofread all 2,000+ questions in the game” to “surreptitiously adding a question about Life in the Dorms to the script, shhhh.” What I like about it is that it’s a trivia game that I don’t feel dumb just sitting around and playing by myself (not that there was anything wrong with playing Trivial Pursuit against my Ninja Turtle action figures) (and losing), because it’s specifically designed for single-player. It has story and objectives, beyond just “do question-answering better than everyone else.” It even has boss fights.

ninja-trutles-trivial-pursuit…I can’t believe Googling “Ninja Turtles” and “Trivial Pursuit” actually worked.

And, finally! It wouldn’t be a proper Gamedev Update without some completely unrelated contributions I’ve made to GameCola as of late, so here’s:

  • A review of Dinner Date (which was more an excuse for me to rail against how quick we are to pedestal so-called “art games”),
  • A review of Deponia (which received the highest score I’ve ever given a game in my 10+ years of writing for GameCola, just for being one of the best adventure games ever made),
  • Various contributions to collaborative pieces, like a Q&AmeCola about games we’re looking forward to and our annual year-end awards, and
  • A podcast about the best games from 2012, like Hatoful Boyfriend and Kid Icarus: Uprising (which I was really hoping would be bad so I could make the hilarious joke “heh, yeah, more like MY VOMIT UPRISING, RIGHT??”)

It’s been a good couple of months, and thanks to some recent changes at my Actual Job, too, it should only be getting gooder from here. Maybe I’ll even have a new game out this year.

…don’t forget to come see us in a couple weeks!

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