Dev Blog #016 – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

It’s been quite a while since we last updated our progress. Most of this has to do with most of the team going on vacation or getting paying jobs, all of which we knew was going to happen. The rest of it is just laziness in actually writing one. Our bad.

Anyways, when we last left off, Monkey was finishing implementation of our Drama Manager and we are excited to say that he got it working! On the down side, now that we can see the system at work, we have come to realize that we have some major holes in both our design and our art style. It wasn’t completely unexpected that we would have to make some changes, but we looking back, we should have noticed the magnitude of changes much earlier.

So what are the issues? First, we will need to revisit our art style as the 2D in a 3D world, at least for items, as it just isn’t feeling correct. Why didn’t we catch it earlier? For the most part, it is because it worked so well in the Tell-Tale prototype we just assumed it would work in the new game. The problem here is that our gameplay has changed significantly. NPC’s in the first version never picked objects up and all the player could do was “pocket” objects to hide them. We cut those features at the time to hit our deadline for the prototype and kind of forgot we did that. Secondly, we never bothered to prototype those elements properly during phase 2 as we focused just on improving the original design. This has also led us to realize that many of the “cool” visual stylings we had no longer make any sense. In fact, it also made us realize we needed to make more changes to the gameplay.


As we already mentioned, the original game had items we could pocket and cops couldn’t pick anything up. The reason for this was, at the time, it was going to be too difficult to implement in the short time frame we had and it wasn’t helping us solve our core problem (lying as a mechanic). The original cops didn’t actually investigate, so much as go to locations (in random order) and see whether an item was there or not. In the current version, we wanted to add a lot more to the AI, as our focus has been on creating a Drama Manager. Now the cops do independently navigate a much larger house and can see items where ever they might be. Again, we assumed this would be the biggest change from the first prototype and that most everything else could remain. Of course we SHOULD have realized that it was going to affect a lot more stuff. For example, for the longest time we had planned on keeping the “ghost head” effect that we used to have the cops call the player over to their location. Then it occurred to us, that since the house is now so large, that often a cop would never call us over, such as being on the opposite side of the house and upstairs. If they did that, it would be like yelling, which seems really out of place. So now the cops will continuously investigate until they see the player.


All this is to say that we are taking some time to revisit our core gameplay. We that we had nailed our core, but looking back we had only discovered the core of the IP and what we wanted it to be across multiple platforms. We didn’t spend any (or enough) time focusing on the individual products and, specifically, what the core gameplay experience actually is. While it is a bit frustrating that we went down this path, in the end we are happy we caught it so early in our development. We aren’t going to lose much work, just some time. Lesson learned (for now).


Experience has shown, and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of the truth arises from the seemingly irrelevant.
― Edgar Allan Poe

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