ISSUE #59                              THE VALE, QUILL                              21 JULY, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

This past week has been all about putting final touches on the Goods Store update as well as taking in feedback from any early players on the test branch. We've also spent some time putting together remaining plans for the update after this one called the "Growing Up & Going Out" update, which will add aging to the adult phase plus the pursuit of romantic relationships.

More on that later though, because for now we're ramping up the Goods Store update for a full release and can happily report that if all goes to plan it'll be heading your way this upcoming week! Keep your eyes peeled for a full announcement not long from now, complete with a big hearty changelog to go with it.

Free-Range Archer

This week we hit a bit of a design brick wall. We tried to sort out the Goods Store Reputation system and to also ensure that owning shops has variety, that the Perks were good, and that their UI was clear. We had a lot of back and forth and it took some mock-ups, but finally we are getting there with only Perks remaining to sort out. We decided that there will be two types of Rep: Shop, which is for your local shop and Family, which is all your shops in all Havens. It may end in bloodshed but we will get there!

We got a bit more art this week as well: a new Master called Moon, who is an exotic archer and Master of Ranged Combat. She looks very cool with her shadowy hood and piercing big blue eyes. That leaves us with just three others to do (well, Gary). Gary will also be working on the final initial combat animations for the adults plus more monster idles. I also gave him a list of creepy characters that turn up at various times of the year, as is traditional. I can't wait to see Tickling Tom Hookfingers and Mag the Moghog, who in my brief I described as a "cat barrel chicken legged thing".

Weekes has been still working on the UI updates and I can't wait to see something we're calling 'the Wheel of Copulation'. He has also updated the cooking UI and we will be tweaking those mechanics to make stirring more useful. Tice is still cooking up secret musical sauces and Caz has her big item list to work through. Every day can bring us new treats and that's what makes working at PixelCount enthralling. Giant veg and strange swamps one day...gaudy boingy sex music the features and mechanics the day after that...

Put to the Test

It's been a slow week for progress. With the build up on the testing branch, player testing has commenced and a few blocking issues were found. These have been fixed and preparations for the update to go live continue. It did limit polish time, which is why we've set ourselves next Wednesday as the date for it to go live (barring any last minute twists of fate).

Bugs are an annoying but expected part of development. The usual reason for them is a combination of moving parts to a given process that makes exhaustive testing impossible. When you see the stats for a game, like say PUBG when it says there's been a billion hours played, then that's closer to an exhaustive test. Yet it still brings unexpected circumstances along the way because of a bewildering combination of computer drivers/hardware/internet connections/position of players at any given moment in the map/etc. So the dilemma of development for bugs is what is a reasonable amount of testing that can be done that gives as much coverage on expected problems as possible while allowing the game to finish some time before computers become obsolete to brain implants! Every time a change is made, a hunch has to be taken as to the extent of its effects. These can help to some degree, but can completely cloud vision on some problems as blind spots are developed to anything else...

The case in point for this was a few days before the test branch went up I made a change to the level temporary NPC's are spawned to. The change was a small simple one to make them associated to the level where they came from and was made so that when they buy something in a shop they are correctly counted for the region they came from for reputation tracking purposes. With our testing fixated on the Good Store, we checked thoroughly that it worked in those circumstances and were content it was all good. That left a blind spot though to the other places where temporary NPC's are spawned for events in say the Festival Green area where the NPC's were noticing their level wasn't their normal one and wandering back towards that to carry out their tasks!

Fortunately the fix in this wasn't too hard and lessons were learned about what to test. We're also looking to draw up more comprehensive test plans that cover all functionality and quick ways of testing. With that plan in hand, hopefully we can get ever closer to comprehensive checks prior to builds going live. Though there'll always be that lurking bug waiting to be uncovered, but as we improve processes and fix them there'll be fewer places for them to hide!

Bits of Sound Bites

With work on my home studio still in full swing, it's been a chaotic week for me. I'm fully expecting to be moving my PC back into the studio next week though. Meanwhile, I've built up a collection of dry foley sounds to construct the background noises for the deepest sections of swamp.

It's a much more complex method than I've been using for the other background ambient sounds because it has to all be reverb-less. If I want the sound of a little rodent scurrying away in the bushes, I have to manually construct it from singlular sounds of russling bushes (or something that represents it) as well as any other sounds I feel it might need. Sounds that were captured in nature have a sense of space, and are accompanied by things like wind and other background noises. For this, it would be unusable.

That's why I'm going with foley sounds, recorded in a sound controlled environment. Often the sound you hear that seems like it'd be something like a footstep, or a clashing sword, they're actually recorded with entirely different objects. Who knew that the chopping off of a head sounds exactly like a person cutting coleslaw...

Setting the Scene

As the team starts wrapping up work on the Goods Store update, it's time for us to turn our attention to the next update ahead. That update is called the "Growing Up & Going Out" update and will bring some pretty exciting additions to the game. Namely: players aging to the adult phase as well as the pursuit of romantic relationships. (Among a few other bits and bots we'll be adding in.)

Game development tends to have periods of overlap like this, where part of the team is concluding work on one update while the other part of the team is beginning work on the next. Much of this is just the nature of how certain mediums of work are conducted, such as how design typically comes before art and how art typically comes before coding and so on. Thefore, the work on the adult player assets has already been well underway for a few months now (there's so many to make) and will be ready and waiting for when Neal begins programming them in - hopefully a couple of weeks from now.

However, this upcoming week is when we're planning to release the Goods Store! It's been quite a meaty update and I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of all the things that've been added. We'll be taking in feedback and sorting through bug reports the week of release, and then shortly after we'll ramp up work on that subsequent aging/romance update. I'm personally looking forward to that specific update, as I get to make a handful of new cutscenes for it using our engine's Cutscene Editor tool. I'll be sure to chat about how all that works in future Post issues and will probably even stream the process a few times. Should be fun!

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Copyright 2019 by PixelCount Studios (Limited).ᅠᅠAll rights reserved.ᅠᅠEdited and assembled by Matt Allen.