ISSUE #58                              THE VALE, QUILL                              14 JULY, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

This week the team has been putting the last bits of final work into the Goods Store update, with an early build now up on our Steam test branch! Assuming all goes well and there's no fires to put out, the public release will get pushed out forthwith.

Meanwhile, other bits of the team have begun work on assets for the update after this one, which we're calling the "Growing Up & Going Out" update. It'll be all about growing into an adult and pursuing romantic relationships. Both of those are things we've been really looking forward to, so it's pretty exciting for us to finally be at the stage where we're ready to start adding it all in.

Though for now, the forthcoming Goods Store update should give you some fun entrepreneurial adventures to get into in the meantime. If you're taking it for an early spin on the test branch be sure to let us know how you get on with it and for all you other fine folks keep your eyes peeled for the full announcement and changelog to follow shortly. Speak again soon!

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This week I have been mostly playing the build, but other than trying to manage the chaos of my store at max Rep levels, I got stuck into some design and feedback.

Next update we have marriage, romance and...erm, nookie. So, how are we handling it? (wahey!) We're going to cover the act with an amusing mechanic that needs some of Tice's magic music to get the feel right. Mr Weekes had the unenviable task of creating the art for this most important of acts, and I had to deliver the system that dictates how it works. We will reveal all in an upcoming (wahey!) #ScreenshotSaturday on Twitter.

I have to write some flavour text for the deed, which should be fun, and just before I wrote this Post article Tice presented the music for it which, with a touch of mouth harp and tuba, made the whole thing golden. We look forward to players getting intimate, but it will need some planning! We have Matt ready to finally get in on the action as our cutscene man, so the marriage ceremony will be in his hands.

It's going to be a great update...and we are hoping possibly the best sex mechanic in any game. ;-)

Linking Up Details

This week: more Goods Store progress. Have finally today managed to get the build up onto the test branch of Steam!

Each day was a case of checking internal feedback from the last build, working on the list for that day, and getting another build ready in the evening to review. As the week went on, there did start to be less of the urgent 'must fix' items and more of the 'nice to have' polish work which I'll be getting started on tomorrow! It's nice to have the build up finally to start seeing new impressions of the overall setup, unclouded by us devs knowing all the ins and outs.

Pulling together the changelog showed there was quite a bit of detail that has gone into the update around shops and hopefully it shows to the people playing! I've been finding that this update definitely felt more packed from the start to its current state, and expect the next few will too. As more of the systems in the game come together and start to interact then there's more work to do linking those details, while hopefully the tools get more refined making it ever faster to setup new content.

It's not clear when the tipping point of that will be to make it so that updates are less code detail and more content iteration, but it is starting to feel tantalisingly close. I'm not going to dare predict it though, suffice to say it'll happen when it happens, but I certainly will be trying to get there soon!

Spring an Idea

This past week started out with me working on the ambient sounds for the more dangerous swampy areas where the fog hides scary things...

It's intended to nicely accompany the music I made for the area the week before. But my work was cut short when I was asked to switch gears all of a sudden and work on music for a game mechanic to do with conceiving. All in an extremely tongue-in-cheek way of course, and the music needed to reflect this.

The first thing I tried was far too serious and romantic; not at all what Charlie had in mind. But luckily, there was an old draft I had for when we tried to get the music for Tir Na Nog to sound as though it was being played by a terrible orchestra of gnomes. It turned out that was a great foundation to work from! I messed around with getting it to fit for this new purpose but it took a while to get the sheer levels of absurdness that Charlie had in mind.

We brought in a tuba to accompany the terribly played strings and glockenspiels already in the track, but it was still not absurd enough. The final ingredient that got us there? A mouth harp to represent the springs of a bed going up and down...very on the nose! But with Charlie happy, I ain't complaining.

With that one completed, I can now turn my attention back to super creepy swamp sounds, which is one heck of a gear change!

Pixel Perfect

A few days ago I finished up a batch of GIF's intended for use in the announcement for when the update goes live. We've been making GIF's of the game since the old prototype days and whereas these are typically used for marketing purposes by most teams, it's something we've oddly come to depend on for development as well.

When playing the game normally, it's sometimes easy to overlook areas that need presentation polish. The game's still very much in development, so it's par the course that there's imperfections like that during our playthroughs. But when capturing a brief moment of the game in GIF form, it manages to narrow focus in such a way that even the smallest of presentation blemishes become readily apparent and impossible to ignore. A pixel out of place here, a shadow not working there, and so on.

In that way, many of the GIF's I capture compels us to go back and polish those areas up (typically adding to Neal's gargantuan list of things to do). Then once the necessary fixes have been made, I'll have to go back and recapture the GIF's from scratch.

It's one of those things where you'd think making a GIF for a community announcement would be a pretty no fuss straightforward thing, but seldom does that ever seem to be the case in game development! The text draft I've made of the upcoming community announcement has 8 GIF's in total, a number of them redone a few times now. One GIF, in particular, has a ridiculously long runtime of about 45 seconds and yet I managed to squeeze it down to 2.95 MB's with no perceptible compression. The glories of using pixel art!

I seem to have rambled on a bit about this sorta thing two PixelCount Posts in a row now, but I usually don't spend so much time fiddling with GIF's. So I'm looking forward to finishing up with the community announcement in the next day or two and then moving on to work on something I've been excitedly anticipating for some time: creating the game's cutscenes!

More on that in the weeks ahead. Until then, we'll see you all very soon at the Goods Store!

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