ISSUE #80                              THE VALE, QUILL                              24 MAY, 2020                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Hello again from Castle PixelCount! Seems it's already time for yet another issue of this devlog of ours, but before diving too far into things we wanted to quickly let you know that we just put a player feedback survey up! It's a pretty short survey which can be completed in about 5 minutes, so hop on over to the survey announcement for some quick info and the survey link itself.

In other news, we've been keeping busy over these past couple of weeks with some much improved goddess offering mechanics as well as some newly added star ratings to many items. Our last update was pushed out just yesterday in fact, so feel free to visit the changelog for the full list of improvements and fixes.

In addition to the recent build's work, we've also been preparing some new content for the updates just ahead. Charlie, for example, has been adding tons of new dialogue for NPC's so that they can start saying more unique dialogue based on various factors. Neal has also begun work on providing different skin tones for players to choose from and it's been coming together nicely over the last number of days. Read on below for more details from Charlie and Neal as well as other updates from the rest of the crew. Take care everyone and we'll see you again soon!

Level Best

Been trying to get back on to levels recently. I made some tweaks to Tir Na Nog and added a path to the unreachable cave in Crumblechalk. Also want to get E'ergreen finished off and expand the mines in various regions.

On top of playing the game I have also been doing tons of dialogue, NPC stories, and 'rumours' - which are a mix of clues, news, and steaming piles of nonsense.

It has also been great seeing the star rating stuff and worship system start to bring out more of the gameplay loops. Plus the UI improvements. I am admittedly addicted to levelling up tools such as the sickle and rod and seeing the effects that gaining levels have. It does feel finally that the glue is settling and now we need to expand on the stories and reasons for doing lots of this stuff.

To that end I have been writing more NPC letters and a very special one...

I still get excited about what lies ahead for you all to see and experience. Plus this week Gary, our character artist, delivered another amazing knockout punch that we will only reveal when you find it ingame. And trust me, you won't miss it.

Tangles to Unravel

Looking back at my notes from the last two weeks it seems there's been a variety of work keeping me busy! First up there was more goddess offering work taking it towards that 100% done mark. In terms of my list, I was content I'd actually made it to that point but it turned out I had a bit of a blind spot when it came to the sound effects and the results screen. The sound effects are getting there thanks to Tice's help and making some recordings of the screen in action. Though the results screen is still in need of a pass but for now I'm compromising to leave it as is while there are bigger wins to be found in the consequences of the offering setup, but more on that in a bit...

Next up I've been setting up an indicator for growables to show how they are doing. It's now functional but undergoing some alterations for its look so will need a followup. It is reasonably straightforward, though there's a few aspects showing their age (4 years old code) for the old bushes and trees where it uses a less robust setup. My thinking is to revisit that once the art is ready to implement, as again there are bigger wins.

After this I've been looking into customisation. The focus was mainly on looking at being able to provide different skin tone options, but I felt like it would be worth investigating outfit colours as well. To that end, I've created a testbed for evaluating the setup which has found a bit of a tangle to unravel! All 4 versions of the player character (the two kids and two adults) have different colour palettes with around 70-120 different colours. With this proving a bit daunting, I ended up sticking to just the skin tones and getting that all figured out. I've reached the point now where it should all be ready to add in different varieties and a bit of testing before then being available in the build.

One other practice I've been starting to put in play is to do two mini playthroughs each week. In the past I've always felt like my best results in work (on the scripting side for the Fable games) came from this quick daily iteration cycle of playing>fixing>testing>repeat. It's a demanding cycle though and one where I got a bit too caught up in the need to just make things work and move on because there's always more to do. This twice weekly pattern though seems to serve me well in keeping on top of bugs and spotting improvements to be made which help refine the experience. In some ways it is perhaps more noticeable when something like the goddess offering work takes place, as the high quality bar of that makes other inconsistencies stand out more! There's definitely a lot of UI work which I'm slowly working my way through based on these playthroughs.

The final area I've been working on is item ratings. Linking back to the goddess offerings this was one consequence of our quite light initial pass on ratings which, apart from fish (and a few skills/tools/boons), there wasn't much available to get even two star rating items. With the design in place for the ratings, I've started implementing it all in earnest such that even some five star ratings are now possible. It's quite exciting to get this in as there's potential to add a lot to the gameplay experience in terms of player discovery as they gradually uncover the overlapping conditions leading to getting the best items.

In doing the item ratings though, there then is the question of uncovering the info for them and also the actual item effects which currently are also lightly implemented. So that's the next consequence to unwind and one that'll again bring more to do. On top of that, Charlie's been working on dialogue which I'll be putting into the game soon along with other relationship update improvements. That's certainly enough to keep me more than busy for the next few weeks, so 'til next time wishing everyone all the best!

Stacking Up the Odds

Ah...good to be back! And immediately after returning, I was able to get started on the redesign of the worship system. A lot of its sound effects had already been made and could carry over from the previous iteration. Only a few new additions needed to be made for now, until further polish is done to the mechanic.

We also now have a new internal channel in our team's Discord where we keep track of everyone's progress. This made it very smooth to return to work and be all up to date on things quickly. Matt Weekes also made a full design document for the mechanic which noted where sound effects would probably go. Me and Neal then discussed what was feasible and what we could still use from the old system. What we ended up with is still subject to change, so at the time we put it out on the experimental branch first so people could feedback on it.

I suspect some of the sounds will be too long for how quickly one can operate the interface, especially with a controller. If that's the case, sounds will overlap and it could all turn into a loud mess. Neal tells me that under the wrong conditions, quickly stacking sounds can even crash a program.

The trick for me is to see what 'normal' use of the mechanic will be when using the various controls available. At what speed will people go through the mechanic and what sounds sound right at that speed. The current sounds for getting jinxes and boons are rather long, but they were originally intended to be heard as the last sound before a player is finished with the mechanic so as they walked away the sound could play out and not conflict much. But as it is now, you can hear those sounds while still operating the interface. Time will tell what this'll do for the user experience. Of course without your feedback we'll never know, so please do give us your feedback!

Survey Says...

Things have been going well over here at Chateau Matt. In the past couple of weeks I've gotten into a fairly nice work rhythm and have been enjoying some nice productive momentum. Some of this is partly due to refocusing my energy on better schedule habits and health habits. I've no doubt some of it is also due to the recent organization efforts we've implemented on the team alongside some recent productive team-wide meetings.

For example, the new channel I added to our team's internal Discord server has been proving useful. We'd been finding that between all our internal channels dedicated to the different departments, all the lengthy discussions in each were making it difficult to ever get a broad overview of where the team was on various tasks. Thus, the new channel was made in order to serve as a strictly no-fuss location for team members to share high-level info with each other. This includes things like new design documents getting posted, new build release candidates that need signing off on by each team member, or even just simple things like whenever I post a new community announcement. Overall we've been finding it very helpful.

This last week I also made a player feedback survey which I posted and shared just earlier today. I've wanted to do a survey for the past couple of months but it seemed like other work was always getting my attention instead. So recently I decided to finally make sure I carved out some time to get it up and also set myself a self-imposed deadline to get it done by.

Since this is our first survey, I kept many of the questions relatively broad and general. This way we can get a sort of baseline of results which will then serve as a jumping off point for future potential surveys. I'm interested to start looking through the results and seeing if our internal predictions line up with what the survey is telling us. I'll let you know how it goes the next time we talk, but until then I hope you all have a great rest of your weekends and I'll see you lovelies around the community. Cheers!

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