ISSUE #73                              THE VALE, QUILL                              4 DECEMBER, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Another PixelCount Post, another Short Report! This one's going to be extra short in fact, because we've got one of our monthly build updates planned to drop less than a day after we post this. This build update will be yet another significant chunk finished as we work towards our next major milestone of our roadmap: the relationship update. We'll save the specifics for the written progress report that we'll be posting alongside the build update, but for your usual dose of firsthand reports from the team you can read on below. See you again soon for our monthly progress report!


Bit of a quiet steady one this week...mainly writing and readying the first Mellowfields level for public consumption. It was originally called Twanging Gardens as a placeholder, so a lot of time was spent thinking up a proper name. After 10 seconds thought, I went with Cunning Plots. The two NPC's that live there are fierce rivals. We have on one side, Veg Rarney (yes, a nod to Reg Varney from On the Buses). On the other side we have Ken Tiller (named after a Commodore 64 budget text adventure I really liked called Kentilla).

Both these men try to outdo each other (see if you can spot the Borat reference in their dialogue), but they are no match for the richest family in the Haven: the Lawns (Mo, Greene, and Goldie...each a pun to themselves). Mellowfields is a place of gardeners and giant vegetable competitions. It has clean cut water channels, greenhouses, and windmills where you will be able to grind your wheat into flour. The people there are friendly to outsiders, but inwardly very unfriendly to each other. They are also generally quite short and not the best looking. (They do have a bit of Hobbiton about them.)

We hope you enjoy the new regions as we unlock them one by one over the coming weeks.

Digging a New Minigame

This week saw more additions to the experimental build which is available in all good steam libraries now (subject to terms and conditions of game purchase and the selecting of the appropriate branch and with disclaimers regarding the quality of content and likelihood that problems may occur). Following on from the last post, I put in one addition that hasn't made it to the build to play yet which is a small minigame for digging. This was a relatively quick addition of only 100 lines of code or so but feels like it has a surprising amount of potential for such a small addition in the way it mixes an element of chance and strategy together. Hopefully a build with it should go out soon-ish but there are some definite things that 100 lines of code does not include in terms of niceties for user experience and presentation that will take another hour or more to get done.

The additions that have made it to the experimental build in some form are the larder in the player's farm where food can start to be stored which can be used by the player's spouse and a 'book of housekeeping' that plans out what the spouse will help with day to day. It's all a bit rough and early at this stage but starts to pull together on the strings of raising questions of how to make it work from a gameplay perspective and also answer questions of what use does the addition of the relationships in the game do to form up a more complete game experience.

Aside from those additions I've also worked on some NPC behaviours suitable for the farm level which have been nice to get in and get more purpose to things. There's certainly much more work to be done on behaviours and other aspects of NPC's which will slowly emerge in the coming minutes/hours/days/months ahead. Speaking of which, I better be getting back to it in further refining some of the aspects in the experimental build which should see some of the above improved (and the digging added) along with other new parts getting worked on. I'm trying not to trip myself up by being too eager but I have found lately a chain of events and realisations have made me feel more enthused with the path ahead with my thoughts a bit more in control. Again, wishing everyone all the best!

Notes to Self

This week I did another playthrough of the game from scratch to make notes on whatever I noticed while playing. It leads to things like 'oh, that sound effect is too loud' or 'hey, that transition between different tracks isn't working smoothly'. I had wanted to immediately address the things I had noticed on the audio side but mental health-wise this hasn't been a good week for me. I get winter depressions coupled with insomnia around this time of year, and this year is no exception. I do my best to keep up with some good mental health practices but there's usually a point at which I have to admit 'defeat' for a while and just do what I can, rather than what I think I should.

Stubbornly continuing to demand the same level of productivity of myself during these times only prolongs the lack of it. And knowing that 'this too shall pass' means I don't go off the deep end. Adjusting what I demand of myself depending on my mental wellbeing means I don't go into the spiral of not feeling well, thus not working well, thus getting upset at myself for not working well, thus feeling even less well. If, like me, you suffer from winter depression then I wish you lots of self-love and acceptance this time of year. You're not 'bad' for being like this. You're unfortunate, but that's no reason to be harsh. Quite the opposite!

2020 Vision

In game dev it often feels like making plans and schedules is somewhat akin to arriving at a buffet with a huge appetite. There's stars in your eyes and in that moment everything seems possible. It's only until plate two, or maybe even plate three, that you soon realize it was all hubris. Awful awful hubris.

All that to say, game dev scheduling follows a near identical trend. Last week I was putting together a list of tasks that I felt needed to get done before the end of 2019. A list that I finished right around the 1st. Of December. In 2019. Upon reexamining said list this week, it seemed that my list of things to do in 2019 was, in fact, a list of things to do in December. Rather than lament the fact that game developers seem to be absolutely awful at predicting time (they are) or lamenting the fact that clearly I'm part of the problem (I am), I'm instead comforted by the fact that this is pretty much part of the 'process' for me. My first laid plans always start from a place of optimism, but I make sure I revisit my plans a week later to see if they feel perhaps too optimistic.

What follows is a dose of healthy trimming - cutting a few items here, moving a few others there. Most of the time it's just a matter of taking very non-crucial tasks and moving them to a subsequent month - in this case January, 2020. In the end, what I'm left with is hopefully a list of tasks that'll still be a tight squeeze but not an impossible one. It's an important balance to strike, especially when concluding one year and starting another. Though it remains to be seen as to how well I struck that balance - I suspect I'll know one way or another by the end of this year and/or month!

For back issues visit The PixelCount News Vault

P R I N T E DᅠA TᅠP I X E L C O U N TᅠC A S T L E,ᅠT H EᅠV A L E

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