ISSUE #72                              THE VALE, QUILL                              27 NOVEMBER, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Another week of the team churning away at relationship-oriented features! Of particular note is that Neal has been making good progress on the code's road to marriage. Meanwhile Charlie has been doing quite a bit of writing for things like marriage/dating character dialogue as well as various books on the same subject to be found around the game world. Currently the very basics of the marriage features are testable ingame, which has been quite exciting for the team. In fact, the latest version is even available on the experimental branch.

In addition, work continues along nicely with the vast amount of aging art the game needs. We've even got another aging NPC preview to show you further down in this issue, this time showing how Tom Cowe looks through the generations. Music and audio is also shaping up well as of late, with a whole batch of new tunes being prepared for not just marriage and dating but also for the next major hub of regions that we'll (eventually) be adding to the game's world.

Read on below for more info on all that and other things. Also, if at the end of this issue you find yourself still itching for more reading material, Wireframe just released a recent issue featuring a huge write-up on the making of Fable. There's a downloadable PDF version available on their site for anyone interested in giving it a read (and a couple of Pixel Counts even pop in for a quote or two).

Post Haste

There I was, sat munching on dried mango (Forest Feast nice!) and watching a bit of Youtube in VR, when I suddenly came crashing back to reality like a meteor with ill-fitting pants on. "The Post! I haven't written my post!" I didn't exclaim, although I did think it. Probably in a Sherlock Holmes accent.

So I sat down and started to type. As I typed, I spent a good two minutes thinking of words to describe snapping back to reality, but settled on a meteor instead. To make it funnier, I added a bit about badly fitting pants. I then described describing things, and eventually got to where we are now, which is here.

So what work did I actually do, I hear you ask? Other than trying to pad out this post with some nonsense, I did some level design on Mellowfields and fixed up some Vale region stuff. I also had to write a bunch of marriage related dialogue for your spouse and NPC's, plus write some books on dating, marriage, divorce, and so on. Additionally, I tested the build and gave feedback. Was very cool to finally see marriage in and I married the first NPC I encountered - in this case, Betty Scrumpy. (By the time I married her she was 66. I must really be in to leather.)

During the week I received an email from the Yorkshire Games Festival, whom I had mailed expressing interest in attending to show off Kynseed. They were delighted to have us (me) attend and so in February it looks like I will be sat in the National Media Museum in Bradford for a weekend, hoping nobody plays the whole Prologue and ends up traumatised. There are some well-known industry names going, so perhaps some will pop by my little table so I can pretend I am cool like them.

And thus ends my post. I hope I managed to get my word count up to acceptable levels and give the illusion I had tons of interesting things to say. Now then, where did that bag of dried mango go?

Heading Toward a Wedding

This week the marriage feature has moved much closer to the main build with it now being available in the experimental branch! 'Til Thursday I've been focused pretty much exclusively on the road to marriage traditions, putting in a placeholder wedding cutscene, and starting on the spouse behaviour setup. The first two aspects are functionally there but the spouse behaviour setup still has much more to look into which will likely fit together bit by bit.

Putting together the wedding cutscene in a very 'functional' text-and-camera-only way has highlighted the dust and cobwebs covering the Cutscene Editor at the moment. Since the Early Access launch it hasn't had a whole lot of attention but that has to start changing with an increasing need for it. It's a tricky balance though to know which Cutscene Editor changes fall into the essentials and which are a luxury outside scope. Our current plan is to have a day or two focused on it in the next week while otherwise only giving it a passing glance in order to get what is necessary done.

I've also been feeling the urge to get in something new into the game after spending a relatively long time on the marriage feature without change, so hopefully the fruits of that will be in the next build. Wishing everyone all the best, see you next time!

A Mellow Break from Mellowbrook

As Mellowbrook opens up, players will experience its music for the first time. It often makes me take another hard look at the music that's to be unleashed and tends to make me just that bit extra critical of it - typically wanting to change things about it at the last second. This happened to the music for Mellowbrook, which I've just remastered after leaving it be for a while.

Whether or not that's good is not a given. Sometimes you can over-polish or change something that was already good. Sometimes a change is for the worst. And there's no facts that will tell you if it is, because it's all subjective. So whether or not a product is inherently finished is an unanswerable question. You can decide to stop working on it, but you can't know if it's finished. That's part of why creative expression continues to be so potentially scary.

What I can still do, however, is to let others in the team hear the new version and tell me what they think. So that's what I do. After that, once released, it's released 'for real'. (Whatever that means...) In other news, cutscenes are coming ever closer, and I'm excited to be working on them soon!

Year In, Year Out

Last week I started to truly feel the weight of the impending close of the year. I think I start to always feel this way around mid-November, when the feeling of the year having many months left suddenly gives way to the realization that the amount of months remaining can no longer be measured in the plural. So I do what I typically do in such situations: I go on a short organizing spree.

In this case, I've created a document of high level tasks and lumped them into three different sections: things to do before the Relationship Update releases, things to do the week it releases, and things to do before the end of 2019 itself. Most of the items on that list apply more to a production-level overview and thus isn't burdened by having to list out all the tasks from other 'departments'. For example, it doesn't list out the minutia of tasks that code and art must do in order to get the Relationship Update done. This helps the document not get bogged down by such things and allows it to keep a much broader focus.

With this document in hand, I've now got a decent look at all the things I'd like to get done on the project by the end of the year. (No doubt another document will get formed at the start of the next year as I map out plans and intentions for 2020.) As for what's on the list? About half of it is for relatively unexciting logistics-esque tasks. One such task is that I need to update all our store page's text and screenshots to reflect all the new content we've added in the last half year. Another such task is that I need to also update our site's FAQ, which has become woefully outdated in just the short span that it's been up. And so on. Basically, these are all things that are important for any indie dev to get done, but as they're relatively unexciting it can be easy to push them off month after month.

Thankfully, the year's remaining work isn't quite as dry as all that. The main example that comes to mind, and as Neal mentioned above, is that our engine's built-in Cutscene Editor is getting some attention again. Making cutscenes is something I seem to have had a sort of love affair on this project with, where I've talked about making cutscenes before and have had every intention of diving deep into our Cutscene Editor for prior updates. Yet, as can often go in development, other priorities would arise and wrestle for my attention. However, attention has once again circled back 'round to cutscenes, mainly because of the Relationship Update relying on the inclusion of a few key scenes.

I'll be working pretty closely with Charlie on the scene's overall direction/pacing and then I'll be working closely with Tice on the music and audio cues. All the while, Neal will be helping to polish up the Cutscene Editor tool itself in the code. Tasks such as these are always fun to do, if only because it requires creative input from much of the team at the same time and this allows us to really play to each other's strengths.

Though for now, I'm going to dawdle off and get back to chipping away at that big ol' list of tasks. Catch ya next time!

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