ISSUE #76                              THE VALE, QUILL                              27 FEBRUARY, 2020                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

This last week the team has been diving into an even mix of new design and new code (which, no surprise, typically go hand in hand on any given week). One such design is a new wheel-related mechanic, which Charlie has hinted at before and in which we'll reveal more info on in about two weeks.

Meanwhile, Matt made a (semi) surprise appearance by exhibiting Kynseed at a 3-day game convention called DreamHack over in Anaheim, California - just east of Los Angeles. We've technically exhibited the game before, as Charlie took the game to a local UK event just a few weeks ago, but DreamHack was the first time we've shown the game at an event of such scale.

Read on below for a recap of how it went as well as the usual team updates you've come to expect from these ol' dev logs. We'll be back with another issue of The Post just next week though, so we'll see you all again then!

Excellent Sheets

Well, I read Neal's post (below) and decided that for your sanity, I should make mine readable in less than an afternoon. *wink*

This week I have been up to my scalp in Excel sheets. The first was a huge item sheet with column after column dedicated to the various proverbs and traits of every item that requires them. It is all about when and where they appear, and the conditions needed to find them. Then it was a sheet on shops for the first three havens. What do they sell? How does the supply and price change based on seasons? Barley and wheat are slower to restock in winter and more costly, for example. Apples may be cheap in the Vale but more expensive in other havens, and so on.

I have also started the intro dialogue for all of Mellowfields NPC's, which is always a fun thing to do. Also, I've been looking at star ratings, perks & boons, master skills, and the huge array of events that will fill the world. These are the most exciting as they will give more reason to revisit areas and let the player experience fun and surprising things. Some events occur once a decade, once every 50 years, and even once a century!

That's about the same time it takes to read Neal and Matt's posts.

A Week in the Life Of

Time flies as another 3 weeks passes! Week before last saw the latest update go live which I must admit turned out to be quite rushed on time. Between my last post and now, the intention got set of trying something a bit different and scheduling per day activities to try and freshen up the monotony of the single focus approach. However, it was shortlived when the realisation set in of how little time there was 'til the 6th Feb update that we committed to. So instead, I returned to the single focus approach and pressed on with improving what could be improved in that time.

There was a minimum viable bar for that of more noticeboard triggers, a few characters aging, an NPC trait, and a new recipe which we exceeded (albeit not by as much as I'd have liked). Partly that was due to the last minute addition of equipment experience which felt like a significant addition in giving players a greater incentive to repeat actions and get some benefits from doing so! The unforeseen flaw in doing this was how none of that data was actually set up to be saved, which meant a few days of head scratching to adapt the code to be both backward compatible while also thinking about the best way forward.

With the update out of the way though, this recent week was finally the chance needed to start getting properly into the daily scheduling of activities. So the current plan for myself involves a varied lineup of 5 workdays with the 6th day serving as a contingency to wrap up anything important for the next week. To go into more detail (perhaps too much but with 3 weeks away from posts I felt the need for an epic one):

Monday was 'Feedback' day. First off there were a few bugs to look into from the last update, but the main focus was on interaction. During the weekend prior, Charlie had been demoing the game at a show and found that a majority of players were struggling to interact with NPC's due to the relative precision involved and there being a deadzone if the players were too close to the target. So initially I made some internal visualisations and documentation of scenarios where this could happen, what next steps to take, and some ideas to experiment with. In the end, the combination of visualisation and an example video of the problem players were encountering (this was really key, because my understanding of the system made it hard to purposefully break it in a way that players might) helped pinpoint some easy steps to improve things by having a small inner area where an NPC in that area will autotarget. Additionally, I've put in a potential extra step whereby static NPC's could have collision to prevent the player walking through them as easily. The latter isn't on for now, as it is a bit risky a change that perhaps the player could get blocked in somewhere but does look like an interesting option to make the NPC's feel a bit more solid in the world along with making interactions look more presentable.

Tuesday was 'Roadmap' day, where the focus was on the relationship update directly. In this case, I've been working on the wheel that will facilitate the making of babies ingame eventually! I spent a fair while on this just trying to get the feel of the spinner rotating round right. Without a preset system of animation graphs like UE4/Unity provide, I'm having to make do with a sort of in-between method using easing equations and stages for spinning up/spinning down/etc. This is really reaching the limits of its practical use nowadays and I'm definitely considering looking towards some editor ingame to allow more control over these things...

Wednesday was 'Flex' day, where anything goes really. In the end I spent it writing some early drafts of text for a show application, a thread documenting some ideas about dealing with problems, and some debug setup partly for the next day for items.

Thursday was 'Future' day, where the focus is on things beyond the current Roadmap update to anything ahead. It didn't go that far beyond the current update this time round, delving into the setup of Mellowfields where I got to setup a bunch of items and look at the seasonal asset variants. In the past with new levels, it has often felt like this rush and piecemeal way of putting them in little by little for items, etc. I don't know if that way was quicker, but it certainly felt good to get all these items set up and start delving into what the next set of regions will contain at this pace. Thinking on the Mellowfields stuff also highlighted a few areas where some content is still needed, so it definitely proved useful as an earlier heads up of what will be needed soon. Depending on how these levels come together, they might even sneak in earlier!

Friday was 'Feedback' day as well. We had a meeting to catch up on an application form we're working on which is due very soon. Then additionally I've been looking at some more bugs that have cropped up. An interesting one this time was a bug where the Fairweather cutscene wasn't starting correctly. This was luckily identified by a user on Steam to be due to a lack of audio device. Fortunately, Windows allows disabling of devices so I could disable it and try and discover the issue. (It was waiting on a sound to start which never triggered due to the missing audio device!) If only all PC config issues were that easy!

Saturday, the aim is generally to wrap up a few things that didn't quite make it to start afresh the following week in delving further into each area. It feels like a good start has been made and, although it is more a scattershot approach, it allows more areas to get a look at earlier to be that much more prepared for what's ahead. Wishing everyone all the best!

Holy Foley

My PC is back in full working order, just with twice the amount of memory it had before. I don't have to worry about putting too many instruments in my arrangements anymore!

Since my computer came back from repairs, I've been continuing work on the swampy areas of Woemarsh. The tracks I've been making for these places have been moving around a bit, as some of them worked better in other places than I had envisioned. This happens from time to time. Whisptrail is proving to be a tricky region to write for as well. It's swampy and there's wisps floating around. I'm trying to strike the right balance between the low bass-clarinet and contra-bassoon sounds that represent the swamp, and the playful and alluring sounds of the wisps. It mustn't sound too scary, nor too cheery. There's a sweetspot I'm trying to find. Another element that features in the swampy regions is the banjo, which plays a recurring pattern throughout Woemarsh.

On a different note, I've been working on making my own recording space as soundproof as possible so I can record foley for the game. There have been many times when the exact sound effect I'm looking for wasn't available within my network and I'd have to make my own. Well, now I can! I imagine quite some fun will be had figuring out how to create the sounds I need. Though foley can be rather counter-intuitive sometimes. There's famous examples of sounds from the movies that aren't at all what they appear to be. I came across this article of how some frequently used sound effects are created with foley.

Making a heartbeat with a trash can? Why not!

One Last Job

As The Short Report up top mentioned, I took Kynseed on a field trip and attended my first game show as an official 'exhibitor' at an event called DreamHack. Typically, I'm used to being on the other side of that proverbial fence. I've been going to various game shows for years now, but always a member of 'the public', as it were. As such, this ended up being a pretty exciting milestone for not just the game but also myself!

Overall the event was an exhilarating yet exhausting experience. One of the reasons we didn't overly publicize our presence beforehand was that we didn't quite know how well the game might demo publicly coupled with the fact that this sorta thing was pretty new to us. So we wanted to safely dip our toes into the pool rather than bite off more than we could chew. Those metaphors make absolutely no sense together, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Though as mentioned above, it was an incredibly exhausting affair due to being a solo dev responsible for setting up (and tearing down) an entire booth and manning it all day, three days straight. I feel like I learned an incredible amount though, not just from seeing people play and react to the game but also from talking in person to other indie devs.

However, I'm going to save my full post-mortem (with pics!) of how it went for next week's issue of The Post. One reason for this is I've not managed to catch a day off since about a week before the event and I imagine I could use some catching up on sleep! The other reason is that, having been recently inspired by Tice, yesterday I decided to upgrade my system's RAM and hard drives...yet I found myself missing a necessary cable.

So currently my computer is dismantled while that cable is in the mail, meaning I don't have access to my usual files or software. (That's also why the Steam version of this issue lacks the usual image-based article headers, which I'll have to go back and add in sometime next week.) In fact, to even put this issue of The Post together, I had to dust off my old PC which infamously experienced a huge GPU hardware failure mere days before we were set to release Kynseed on Early Access!

Luckily it has a dinky integrated graphics processor which I've switched it over to in order to get me by temporarily. But, suffice it to say, anything beyond basic text editing and a couple of Chrome tabs are about all it can muster. Come to think of it, this'll likely be the last time I ever use this machine before I set it to rest permanently. Using it for this issue of The Post felt somewhat akin to me having rung it up out of the blue and telling it I've got "just one last job" and then it's done. Still, it's somewhat nostalgic being back on this machine. It got me through some good years, including the entire prototyping and pre-production phases of Kynseed. Carry on, my wayward PC. Carry on.

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