ISSUE #61                              THE VALE, QUILL                              4 AUGUST, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

This last week was spent sorting through the usual: fixing bugs that had cropped up, designing a few new things, getting a bit of new art in, and chipping away at the gargantuan soundtrack. Specifically, Charlie and Gary have been working on a new character for around the farm. Meanwhile, Neal's been looking at utilising a branching approach for the code. Then over in audio land, some new gassy music is slowly being digested.

In addition to this, we've been slowly circling in on our next planned steps for the relationships update as well as the next batch of roadmap updates to come. We'll be sprinkling in a fair bit of onboarding improvements as well, which we go into a bit more detail about in last week's issue. This upcoming week we have a couple of team meetings planned where we'll be nailing down all these specifics for good and, from there, getting it all prepared for sharing with you lovely folks!

Brounie Points

A slow-ish week with Neal away, but it let me mess with some ideas for Mellowfields to expand the exploration and to get on with the onboarding designs among others. To help give your farm a bit of character, Gary (our character artist) and I colluded on a new character: Pott the Brounie!

All those offerings you have been giving or not giving? They go to him. After the Prologue, the idea is that you can now see him (and all other Fae) and he will hang around your farm. He will take care of the little things while you are away and be a source of advice and direction. All this delivered in a grumpy, sarcastic little fella who we modelled on Albert Steptoe from the old UK TV show, Steptoe & Son.

He is going to whine and complain a lot, and if you don't give your offerings he won't take it kindly! We hope he will be an endearingly enigmatic character who you grow to love. Let us give the little guy a chance to say hello...

"Nice to meet yer, I be Pott,
I sweep n' clean and wairk a lot.
Give me grub and be a friend,
Sweets make me loyal to the end!
About your house I will creep,
Mendin' things while you're asleep.
Scrubbin' muck and dustin' cob,
Polish wood and shinin' hob.
So feed me good and treat me fair,
Or I'll put spiders in your hair!"

Branching Out

This week was a little short for me as I was looking after some cats for part of it, which I used as a minibreak of sorts. The time I have spent on the game has been about figuring out some reported bugs on loading saves along with an unintended setup for fishing where they'd respawn every level load. I've uploaded a build with the fixes to the experimental branch which is where I'm aiming to put builds more regularly in the coming weeks. There's a few smaller areas I'm looking at for the next week, with the chat system getting UI tweaks along with the noticeboard as a source of new tasks (which should make it into the experimental build).

Something that I've started doing with the code is making use of branches for source control. For those unfamiliar, source control is a way to track changes to files (mostly code) over time and then branches is a way to have multiple simultaneous versions of the files for different purposes that can be merged as necessary - say one branch for releasing the game, one for fixing bugs, one for working on future features, etc.

It's quite a powerful feature, but at the same time can get complicated to figure out what's going on (as there's no longer that guarantee of consistency that a feature/bug in one version will work the same way in another, as the code is no longer the same). So I've been easing into it to see what benefits can be gained there.

The main benefit seems to be the ability to easily experiment without affecting the stability of the build, but the struggle I am finding is in then being aware of what the state of any other branch is like and knowing when to cross over. So definitely a new learning curve for me to figure out, as I can see it being very handy soon as we continue looking at improvements from player feedback while the next update is also starting to gear up!

Mouse Versus Keyboard

Another week flew by. This week I spent working on a track for an upcoming town later in the game. It's in the swampy area I've worked on previously and from what Charlie told me, there's copper pipes everywhere and the town is being lit by gas.

I've tried to incorporate this into the music by using metal percussion instruments and some big bass trombone and tuba 'bwaaps' as a sort of 'fart' in the music. It gives the whole thing a tinker-ish vibe. The banjo and acoustic bass ground it all within the same soundscape as the other swamp music so that, even though it is considerably cheerier than the surrounding swamp tracks, it's still distinctly the same overall atmosphere. I deliberately chose working on this task first rather than going right back to the ambient track I was working on before because I just really needed to get some composing out of my system.

I've also been shopping for some new gear, mainly a synthesizer and MIDI keyboard. So far, whenever I needed an instrument to have very free 'human' timings, I've had to emulate that sense of timing even though I'm drawing in each note with the mouse. This is very time consuming, but it means you get to micro-manage every single note. For the sake of efficiency, I need to bite the bullet and learn to do this with a MIDI keyboard instead. The one I want needs to be ordered though, so it'll take a while to get here. The somewhat jazzy timings I'm adding to the track I'm already working on will just have to be done with the mouse, like always. Though once I get plenty of practice with the keyboard, it'll do a lot to improve my ability to perform live, as a nice bonus.

A Trifling Task or Two

Something that's always been a challenge for a team like ours is how to implement some basic project management/organisation that fits the size of our team. Oftentimes, it seems like these sorts of things are either geared more towards much larger studios or they're more for one to two person teams and thus feel far too simplified. So it's been a challenge over this project to find a balance that works best for us. Typically, this means making our own solutions to fit our own needs, which generally does the trick but it is something that needs revisiting now and then. So with us charting the next batch of updates for the roadmap, it seemed a good time to tweak some of our organisation solutions as well (stuff like spreadsheets, Trello, and so on).

In addition to this, I was able to also set aside some time to get caught up on an ever-growing pile of 'little' things. It seems that there's always a whole slew of small tasks I'd like to get done, but when compared to all the other work that needs doing it's easy for these smaller tasks to get pushed aside for a later day. The problem is, this can really start to pile up if not careful!

So it was nice to dedicate a handful of days last week to getting caught up on such things and marking them off as complete. This included things like researching info on future game events and their submission process, implementing some extra spam protections on our site, and even adding some new features and updates to our community Discord. It's good to have many of these smaller tasks finished, as it does give one a sense of relieving a burden and freeing up some mental bandwidth - all with the intention of being better focused to tackle some of the higher priority tasks ahead!

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