ISSUE #70                              THE VALE, QUILL                              6 NOVEMBER, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Hello once again and belated Samhain blessings to you all! Just as the rest of the team was recovering from being sick, it seems that your humble editor for The Post was the next to get afflicted. So alas, for the past couple of weeks there was nobody here to write up these development updates. But in the words of Monthy Python:

In that time, the rest of the team has been working along without skipping a beat. Of particular note is that the test branch of the game has been updated with our latest progress as we march ever closer to the "Growing Up & Going Out" update, which we casually refer to as the relationship update. We've also revealed our first glimpse of character art for the adult versions of the player, brillianty drawn and animated by character artist Gary. You can check them out yourself further down.

Lastly, as we've mentioned for a few issues, we're going to start releasing monthly game updates (and changelogs) alongside written progress reports. We'll be posting these in the usual places of course, with the next one being later this week if all goes to plan.

Though for now, feel free to read on below for a look at what the team's been getting up to these past couple of weeks, and we'll see you again soon!

Starting a Dialogue

Bit of an up and down week or two with days of struggle then bursts of creative energy. I find I am energised when art and music/sound come in, or when I see new features getting into the build. My focus has been on mapping out Woemarsh in Visio to get it ready to start blocking out ingame. I've also been sorting out Mellowfields, tweaking the Goddess Statue design, and starting to do dialogue for NPC backstories to add more depth to their characters.

I find a lot of time is also spent on our various forums and Twitter, checking for questions or feedback and trying to drum up support. As a little game with a little team, we need to raise every sail on the ship and even use our handkerchiefs if need be to catch every breeze to help us move forwards. The wishlists have been steady and pretty good every day for a while now, so it is very encouraging. A couple of new reviews have really bouyed us up too - so if you havent done one, we'd appreciate it!

As mentioned, I've also been doing a ton of dialogue for every NPC. The reason to do this is to give them more backstory/personality that you can unlock as you gain friendship with them. Each NPC currently has 3 chunks, and on top of that they have a reaction to a family member passing away. These will last for a season to give you a chance to read them. Some NPC's may also comment now and then when a bond was particularly strong.

We want the world of Quill not to be a dark depressing place, so death is treated as just a stepping stone to a new life. Quillians may miss a loved one, but they are mostly upbeat about it and death holds no fears for them. They are united and strong in their beliefs and live a life where the biggest worry is if an apple has a worm in it. Although in Herbert Lemon's case, he thinks it's a bonus.

Following Up

These last two weeks has been a strange tale of ups and downs with a side order of pondering how to know what the best thing to do is. For instance, knowing when to check messages or websites when it is all too convenient to do it all the time or not at all. There is a choice at times of when to connect and communicate where it turns out helpful versus the alternative where that information derails plans in unexpected ways. As best as I can work out it's all about control and good timing, but also making sure to not let external events unduly influence plans that typically serve a greater long term purpose!

Anyway, to keep it mostly game related I've been continuing work mainly on the dating side of relationships while also working on a separate branch that upgrades us to Monogame 3.7 to attempt to resolve some crash issues. The latter is now available in a test branch with the known issues taken care of! The former has proven a bit of a struggle because it is straining the existing systems for NPC's further than before. In particular, there's the system of how their behaviours work which for now I've just kept relatively simple but do feel like it might be a future source of concern. The other aspect of it is the way following works in the game...

There have been ongoing issues with following for a while and while it wasn't too large a problem to gameplay (like having a following animal get stuck or act strangely), NPC's following for a date are a much bigger concern because the whole gameplay centers around them being there! I've spent a good few days investigating issues and attempting some fixes with varying success. Oddly the most effective fixes seem to be the simple ones where just a value tweak can somehow make the difference between them following in a straight line and going all over the place! Interestingly, looking at how other games do it shows how often the solutions employed are to simplify the action (such as the way JRPG's have characters follow in a conga line or even hide them from view).

Bringing this back to the idea of 'the best thing to do' in this case, I've realised that what I most need to do is put together a test level along with various scenarios that can be automated to replay and allow me to see the issues play out and compare how different solutions work. Getting to that idea wasn't easy and didn't even come about from sitting at the computer working on it! Instead, it was more something that played out in my subconscious to later appear a couple of unexpected times (appearing in my mind while half asleep at night and then after waking in the morning and while out on a walk).

I suspect the pattern to take here is one of needing to research a problem as much as possible, then take a breather from it, and then provided it is embedded in the mind enough it'll get processed in the background to pop out later on. The next step is then acting on that plan which I will be getting started on today!

Tasks About Tasks

Having rejoined the modern era after another medieval festival where I did percussion, the constant barrage of social media hits like a ton of bricks. During the festival I had no internet access and honestly, I rather liked it! It's so easy to overlook just how much time and energy goes to keeping up with social media. So I've decided to try a social media diet of sorts, only allowing myself access to things like Twitter at set hours of the day. It definitely helps. Keeping a rigid schedule in general is very useful too.

So now it's back to creating sound effects for me, which remains a very diverse thing to do. From the sound of opening a letter to the sound of discovering a new proverb. There are now a lot of sounds in the game that essentially boil down to the player gaining something or growing in some way. Thus I'm trying to create patterns among them that are consistent, so I incorporate leitmotivs into them. It only works with abstract sound effects though - sounds that represent something that doesn't make an actual sound, like discovering something new or exchanging a gift. It does mean that I have to keep coming up with new ways of orchestrating the same leitmotif. Luckily, there are literally countless ways of doing so.

Recently, I also had to redo a sound effect I did a long time ago. What happened is this:

Ages ago I made a sound for when you complete a task, back before I upgraded the samples I was working with when I was still using an older program. Back then tasks were only ever automatically given to you at the start of your day. But things keep changing in the game and one of those changes is that you can now also accept a task elsewhere. I wanted the sound for accepting a task and for completing one to sound 'related' in a way, so I examined the sound for completing a task and discovered I had never updated it to the new samples. Since the file it was made in was using an older program I essentially had to make it again from scratch.

That's not the worst thing in the world for a 3 second sound, but it showed me how things you do at the beginning of a project can still come back at any time later on. So it's good to future proof things. It also shows in little things like how the file was named originally: "Task Complete.wav". Since then I've been using a different guideline for naming files, so the new one is named "TaskComplete.wav". Now the sounds for both accepting a task and completing it form a harmonic progression together. Two aspects of one larger thing.


My goodness, what a crazy past couple of weeks its been on my side of things. In a nutshell, I ended up getting hit with a particularly weird sickness which resulted in me actually deciding to go to the doctor, something you'd normally have to twist my arm to do. (Though as Charlie reminded me earlier today, breaking my arm would probably do it too.)

Long story short, the vision in one of my eyes took a surprising and rapid turn for the worst, to the point that I was almost unable to see out of it! It ended up being a particularly rare eye inflammation of some kind, which thankfully got treated and is now back to normal. But essentially this meant I was pretty limited in what work I could do, as any work I did required squinting with one eye closed.

Naturally I asked what could've caused the weird inflammation and frustratingly the doc said it could happen for any number of reasons. They said one potential cause could be excessive eye strain due to too much uninterrupted screen time. *cough* And another potential cause could be going too long without sleep. *cough* (Maybe I should get that cough looked at while I'm at it.)

All that to say, I don't have much to report on from my end of things for this update, but I'm back in the saddle as of this week and anxious to jump into work again. That's something Neal and I were talking about a few days ago, in fact: it's one thing to take time off from working on the game, but it's quite another to be unable to work on the game. With the latter recently being the case for me, it's made me really itching to get back to work with some renewed focus (no pun intended). So in a way I guess that's a silver lining of the whole thing, though perhaps I'll try to squeeze in a few more screen breaks now and then...

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