Devblog—June 6, 2017

Was moving last week, hence no devblog. Didn’t make a whole lot of progress anyways, and a lot of my stuff’s still in boxes or just non-existent because I moved into a larger space.

However, I’m going to be taking a short break from SR:New Orleans.

While I was waiting the few days for internet to get set up, I went out and picked up a copy of Neuromancer by William Gibson.

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Obviously, highly recommended—some call it the “father of cyberpunk” (though I later learned that the movie Tron came out two years before it, so the aesthetic of “the Grid” existed before Gibson called it “the Matrix”. But that’s all details and I’m sure smarter people than I have written lengthy papers about it).

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I know I’m not the first person to look at Case’s near-death experience in the Straylight Run and then look at Monika’s death in Dragonfall and go, “Wait a minute…”

I believe there’s a mod called Random Access Memories on the Steam workshop that explores something like that, but it’s set 1 year after the events of Dragonfall. I, however, just want to do a really short story (like, an hour, tops) that’s just Monika’s jaunt into the Harfield Manor Matrix. Really, it’s going to be an exploration of death, and a sort of test for me as a writer to implement basic story “steps” as a cohesive narrative through the gaming medium. Also, being much smaller in scope than New Orleans, it’s a project I much more realistically hope to accomplish, so New Orleans isn’t the first thing I’ve ever vomited out onto the workshop.

I’ve drawn up a few sample/proof-of-concept screenshots, merging “meat” architecture to Matrix architecture, and I like the aesthetic.

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So I’m moving into initial dialogue and first triggers to get the scene framework setup and from there I can move into building combats and subsequent dialogues. I already have a plot outline sort of established, and I’m working on fine-tuning the plot points because there’s no point building a story without knowing where it goes.

Expect an announcement post in a day or two with more screenshots and the working title. Right now, the difficulty I face is just a lot of programming/scripting things setting up the initial walkabout. Once that’s done, I suspect the rest will be easy peasy.

Okay, nothing’s ever easy peasy when you’re still a rookie. But I’m super excited for this project!

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Devblog—May 23, 2017

Where the hell did this week go?

I swear I was set to get more stuff done. But then, John Oliver said it best, “This past week has been about 150 years in 2017 time.” I’ve been eyes fuckin’ glued to the news in every spare minute—I think my F5 key is about to organize a strike. So much shit going on I feel like I’m off social media for 2 hours and it’s like the world’s straight up passed a day forward. This shit’s unhealthy. Unsustainable. Especially if I want to get a project done.

Real talk, though; I’m getting close to another playtester release. I can feel it in my bones. But with every inch I crawl myself closer, it feels like the murk between myself and release stage gets thicker and thicker. Problems mount. Discrepancies appear. Mistakes pop up.

This is the stage where the project goes from islands of raw creativity made manifest to actually needing bridges built.

If creators are like God, look, any bitch with some sand and lava can make an island; sprinkle it with bacteria and you’ve got yourself a thriving ecosystem in a few billion years. It’s engineers who build bridges, and look, respect to higher powers and all, but God’s only got a scant few of those to His name.

What I’m working on now are the bridges; the critical chunks of storytelling architecture that link these islands that I’ve built together, and that is hard. It’s harder than mashing a bunch of walls and floors and props together like, “I LEIK DIS RUME.” This is no insult to people who do those things, and do them well. Working with raw creativity is its own beast, and it’s one that I’m (at this point) a bit more familiar with. Dare I say, even gettin’ kinda good at. But a bridge is more than just architecture. It can’t just look pretty; it has to bear weight. And it can’t just bear weight, because I’m an egotistical bastard—it’s gotta look pretty.

Maybe that’s too much to ask.

Here’s my philosophy on creativity:

Everyone has great ideas.

You have great ideas. I have great ideas. That crazy guy on the forum writing headcanon fan fiction and only posting “wouldn’t it be cool if…”? He’s got great ideas, too. But these ideas are like pictures. And man, if we were all kickass painters, there wouldn’t be a need for video games or novels. But here we are, and where the creativity, the actual craft of storytelling comes in, is how we connect our great ideas together.

There’s a writer (I think it’s either Ernest Cline or Andy Weir) who said that they didn’t feel like they were a particularly great writer—they’re just the one who got the novel done.

If you’ve ever written anything—a novel, a game, whatever…anything with a cohesive Point A to Point B narrative, you’ve surely encountered the problem that you’ve got this cool thing over here, and this cool thing over there…and you’ve got no fucking clue how to get from here to there. That’s where I would wager 90% of projects that get started, stop.

That’s not counting the projects that never leave headspace.

That’s where SR: New Orleans is at.

It feels like every sentence I write, every line of script I put in, the gelatinous goo of potential thickens closer and closer to cement. The harder I work, the harder the work gets, and it feels like the me working today is fighting the me who was working two, three, four weeks ago.

I’m trying to make this not sound like an excuse. I’m trying to communicate this to anyone else who dares something as dumb as this is. I get it now. This shit gets hard. This is where the work begins. This is where I decide if this project gets done or not.

And I’m not giving up yet.

PLAYERHOME

  • Added an “Automated Domestic Assistant”, aka HelperBot to the game. Their purpose, essentially, is to do what Paul Amsel did in Dragonfall: instruct the player on where to go between the prologue and the first run. This is a bit more complicated because I’m giving the player the illusion of control; rather than having an authority figure or expert say, “Go here, do this,” the player is the expert, and thusly, I have to build the conversation such a way that the character serves as something more like the sounding board and it’s the player character who rattles off ideas. Don’t ask my why I made this more complicated than it has to be.x3s41y1
    • At the moment, the HelperBot’s “tone” is all over the place. As I add more dialogue for them, hopefully I’ll get a clearer vision in my head as to what their attitude towards the player character is, and what sort of speech patterns they have. For now, let’s assume most dialogue is placeholder except in function.
    • In just talking with playtesters and sharing screenshots of existing dialogue, there are already dramatic changes for HelperBot in the works (see below).
  • Added an email that should hopefully get the player at least started on their search for Greyvein. Though I’d really still like to get them over to the vendor areas first. Fortunately, a bunch of that dialogue’s already written. I just haven’t devised the actual hub exterior yet.

HIGHTOWER

  • I changed a few lines of Cain’s dialogue so it’s him and not HelperBot compiling data about Greyvein. Because it’s weird that he’d send the player character on a mission and be like, “Well, have fun storming the castle!” I also took out the line for now of liquidating the player’s assets.
    • Look, I still don’t know how the playerhome is going to mix with the vendors hub. Right now, I know I’m in a rough spot. I don’t know what’s going to work, and how it’s going to manifest. There’s going to be a lot of finagling in the coming weeks as I figure out where what information is coming from. Let’s just leave it at that.

To do:

I’ve gotta figure out how the variable $scene.numUnreadMessages works. As in, how the game adds emails to the mission computer on every individual hub load without re-loading and adding to this variable. It’s a really wonky variable that I’m sure has a lot of stuff going on under the hood, but the Mission Computer is critically tied to it. It breaks a lot of things when it doesn’t work right. That’s going to be the major puzzle of this week.

Already, in just talking with playtesters, new options for HelperBot have come up. So what you see above…that’s all placeholder. And by the time you read this, hopefully I’ll be on second draft of writing HelperBot’s dialogue. I’m actually super excited, because it solves a lot of the problems I was having with the iffiness of this scene.

I’m starting to think of the scene immediately after Vitacorp…or, not scene. Call it a “wrap up vignette.” It’s just as essential, if not moreso, than the actual shadowrun itself, and will be a critical part of this phase 1 rollout. I don’t want to start building the dialogue yet because it’s a bit reliant on what goes on between Hightower and Vitacorp, but I’m thinkin’.

We are setting the stage for greatness, y’all. Here’s some city beats. Hear it!

I Need a Wonkers

Okay, I’ll admit it—I mostly used this title because it’s funny.

I’m trying to figure out how to link the end of the Hightower scene to Vitacorp. This is where actual storytelling takes place, because no combat should be happening here, and this is where Dragonfall really succeeded. Dragonfall made use of a “guide”—a character whose purpose was to move the story forward by telling the player where to go and what to do. The character is Paul Amsel. Paul is the one who says, “Go out and get the DVD player, talk to Maalit to get the DVDs fixed, go talk to Altug to get info on Green Winters.”

In SR:New Orleans, this is supposed to be an “investigative” phase, similar to the Dragonfall sequence where the player character is tracking down Green Winters. But just plopping the player down in what may be a two-loading screen hub would be super overwhelming at first. So I need someone or something to be able to tell the character at least what their options are, if not where to go, and I need a way to plant ideas in the player’s head.

In Dreamfall: the Longest Journey, the player character (assuming the personality of Zoë Castillo) spends a lot of the early chapters in their home, coming and going, and it’s unoccupied save for themselves and a…little AI-pet-helper-thing called a Watilla, Zoë’s being named Wonkers.

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Characters like Wonkers serve a unique purpose: they’re there to tell the player what the player character knows.

Alternatively, they serve as the “bouncing board” for the player character’s ideas, rather than the player’s. Because the player character has existed in this space since before coming into the player’s control, they have a relationship to the environment and its people.

Say you want to guide the player to one of three locations. The “helper” NPC says something to the effect of, “Where are you going to go?” The player themselves doesn’t know this world, but the player character using a limited dialogue selection has three options. Just picking options out of a hat, let’s say “Warehouse” “Dockyard” and “Bar” are the options. Player clicks “I could go to the warehouse…” and the helper NPC says, “Oh, that’s a good idea…[here’s some exposition as to why].” You’re giving the player information about the world that the character already knows while simultaneously setting them up to advance the plot by eliminating non-options in a way that feels organic without thrusting the player into an open world.

While the Mission Computer (specifically, the Shadowland BBS) can give the player a peek into the world and its occupants, it’s difficult to design functionality of the Mission Computer that gives the player a sense of choice and independence until you get into the modular design of the mid-game (if you’re doing what I’m doing and stealing HBS’s plot layout). Having another character—in this case, a subservient one—to let the player feel in control while actually guiding them down the path towards the next run will actually give me an opportunity to fill out not just the world, but illustrate the player character’s place in it.

Originally, I was going to give only select “classes” a helper NPC, and mostly for flavor.

When I was drafting up ideas for the variable prop garage, the idea of giving summoners a helper spirit and riggers a helper bot to round out their “uniqueness” was really appealing to me. While I would have loved to give every class a unique NPC, that just isn’t a realistic goal to set. What I might do now is a bit of a compromise—give everyone a helper drone like a Watilla, but maybe give players with appropriate Drone Control some additional options at some point.

I think I can have some fun with this character. I’ve already played around a bit with story variable names (even though I later learned I didn’t need to, using the Speaker option), but by setting a story variable that looks something like $+(story.botName), I can actually let the player name their bot from a limited list, similarly to the Bolthole name options in Shadowrun: Hong Kong. That’ll be the first thing that happens, I think.

So, into the editor I go!

Devblog—May 16, 2017

Whew! Been a while since I’ve done one of these!

In all reality, life happened a bunch these past 2-3 weeks, and I kind of mentally shut down. My confidence flagged at being able to do stuff with the editor, and just looking at the icon on my screen became mentally painful.

But, now we’re back to (hopefully) our regularly-scheduled programming.

PLAYERHOME

  • Added the home matrix node, which allows players to jack into the Matrix; from here, they’ll be able to connect to the New Orleans LTG (currently under construction).

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  • Added the Mission Computer dialogue, which is to say I stole the Mission Computer dialogue from Hong Kong and stripped it of all of the entries save for menu decisions. From this framework, I can build my own emails, Shadowland BBS threads, etc.
  • Added a VidPhone dialogue, allowing players to remotely talk to other NPCs. Should they not be a Decker themselves, the VidPhone will allow players to hire a decker. Boot, being the crew decker, will come significantly cheaper (or just be free), but a merc Decker will cost nuyen to hire.
    • As of right now, the only Decker available for “hire” is Boot. Making other mercs will be a late-stage process.

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  • Added functionality to the front door to send away NPCs tagged “isGuest”, which includes hire-on deckers, but this also sets the framework for the VidPhone to be used to bring NPCs into the space (and send them away).
  • Continued work on functionality of the garage. All items in every iteration of the garage are tagged so they all vanish on the scene load, and then the game looks at the player’s class from when they started the game and reveals a template of items suited to that class.
  • Added functionality to the Mission Computer that allows playtesters to change what the game thinks their player’s archetype is for purposes of the garage’s furniture, then re-sends the events that hide and reveal the respective prop sets. This way, playtesters can see all the garages without having to make new characters. This functionality may or may not make its way into the public release build.
  • Added stashes to each of the different garages, so they’re not just pretty rooms—they each have a function. This was one of my concerns about having customizable rooms (that is: “why?”), but giving the player a stash that’s represented by their starting class feels like at least the garage is functional.
  • Began writing some BBS conversation threads, because why not? Actually makes the setting feel very New Orleans-y, talking about New Orleans things. One is already complete, another’s in the works, and I’ll probably try and punch out at least one more for Episode 1. Maybe another 2 that unlock after Vitacorp.

One possibility I’m toying around with is shoving more hub functionality into the playerhome. With the Mission Computer there, it feels like that’s where my hub is going to be anyways, so I might as well get used to it. But I can’t imagine “investigation” by way of clicking on the right prompts on the mission computer is fun. Maybe. I’ll take a look at it and maybe draft up some investigation options and run it through playtesters. Right now, I can only handwave the events of the Hightower scene and Vitacorp, so if I throw in anything resembling an investigation, maybe it’ll actually work. We’ll see.

PROLOGUE

  • In order for the garage customization to work, the game needs to know what “class” the player made. So I’m piggybacking off of the script for the game’s initial equipment vomit (“Event_Addgear” for folks who tinkered in the editor) onto the player and adding a story variable that essentially matches the player’s class, or ties them to a class based on their favored attribute in the case of the “none” option.
    • Should the player for whatever reason just take no points in karma—not enough to trigger any “type”, the garage defaults to Street Samurai build. So something will show up.
  • Per playtester suggestion, I added a time limit to the amount of turns a player can spend in the “Hell escape sequence.” Essentially, the building is collapsing on itself and the player has to get out. Failure to do so before the bar indicates and it’s back to autosave. As of right now, the timer is set to 10 turns, but I may increase this to 12 because I interrupt the player’s movement twice. Hopefully people will stop fighting the overpowered fire spirits and make a break for the exit…*cough, cough, Dave, cough*
    • What might be fun is add some debris or make some more stuff collapse every turn or every other turn. Right now, the collapses are all on tripwires and behind the player to force them forward (or, rather, not let them retreat) and make sure to not block off their path, but having a few props “turn into rubble” would really give that organic “collapsing building” feel. A project for a later date, surely.
  • While testing the new countdown mechanic, I discovered a misscript (is that a word? It wasn’t a bug; I just scripted it wrong) where, if Sobeksis died, because he was on team Shadowrunner, it resulted in a game over. So I switched the game over condition to anyone with the tag “isClearTeam” meaning your human teammates. I also gave Sobeksis a built-in healing mechanic so he still takes a lot of damage from the fire spirits, but it should be a little more difficult to kill him.
  • With the new countdown timer, and now having read some Shadowrun fiction, I decided to go back and make the fire spirits in the Hell sequence resistant to normal damage and take normal damage from magical sources, which seems to fit the Shadowrun universe. The point is that they should still be incredibly difficult to kill, so much so that a player who attempts it will find themselves swiftly out of time to actually escape.

VITACORP

  • I broke the absolute goddamn tits out of my jumpy elf confrontation vignette, trying to fix/repair it to where I can have some animations in the case of an action(or actions) taken during the confrontation. A lot of this is similar to the Thibaut conversation situation (way back when I was working on the Hightower scene…remember those days?), except this time what I didn’t know was how to integrate actions mid-conversation.
    • The short version is…you can’t. You have to end the conversation on an event, trigger the event with the player selection, use the event to do your animations and then restart the conversation.
    • I’m still not really happy with where this conversation’s at, so work will continue on it next week. Chalk it up to being a learning experience!
  • Fixed a few problems with the Vitasec boys, so now they won’t (or rather, shouldn’t) react to the drone combat sequence, and when the conversation with them ends poorly, the door will close behind them (for good) when the player walks far away enough.

I still need to polish up the end of this mission. It just feels really loose and barely held together. As of right now, I’m sitting on 972 CPU, so any more triggers and I’m going to start pushing the limits of the scene. On the one hand, that feels cool. On the other…that’s trouble. So, we’ll see.

Dang. Looks like I got a lot more done this past week than I thought. Here’s to hoping we keep this momentum going!

Devblog—April 18, 2017

Hit my first major bout of burnout.

Happens so suddenly. First you’re working, then you’re not, and it’s like everything your brain can do to not do the thing you want it to do. I sometimes feel like being a producer in this day and age is a lot more difficult with all of these immediate distractions. When you’ve got Reddit, Facebook, and Steam, I marvel that things even still manage to get done on people’s spare time. But they do, and so it’s time to get back at it.

VITACORP

  • Vitacorp officially functions from start to finish. As with the prologue run, it’s not pretty necessarily, but it functions. I had a lot of problems with a few triggers that broke when I changed a goal name but everything seems to check out.
  • Plugged in the final combat. It’s a trigger-laden mess that’s going to require severe playtesting with both decker and non-decker PCs.
  • Added one final “room” which is just a streetcar for a short getaway conversation.
  • Added a few dialogue options to some older dialogues. Because you can’t have too many extra dialogue options.

At this point, it’d be more helpful probably to talk about what I still need to accomplish, and how I plan on going about it.

  • I need to fix animations in the standoff vignette. I think I’m just going to teleport Kate and Ben to their respective positions at the start of the dialogue; the other option would be to steal them from player control and run them into place, but I think teleporting will work cleanly enough. The option to KO the elf may have to come in the form of a conversation end animation that launches into a new conversation. I’m going to take a look at the conversation in HK where Strangler Bao offs the captured cop to see how they pulled that off and see if I can steal anything from there.
  • I have a second High Threat Response Team waiting in an offstage closet. I need to check with playtesters to see if additional combat is warranted. Right now, I’m beating the final combat pretty handily with a 100 karma PC, but the players won’t have 100 karma; so I’ll want to check with some playtesters to see if more combat feels good or feels like it’s dragging out the end of the mission.
  • I need to add some effects to the streetcar so it feels like a streetcar. Just requires some FX testing, I think.

After that, it comes down to finishing up the player home and devising the hub. Sadly, I’m coming to the conclusion that the hub that I’ve been working on won’t work for the story I’m trying to tell. At least, it won’t feel New Orleans-y. This is not entirely unexpected; I was just playing around, largely, with exterior map assets and didn’t know what I was making. In fact, I based it off a much larger fictional cyberpunk city. But as it stands, I right now do not have a hub designed, and that needs to change, pronto.

For the playerhome, most of the architecture’s done. I need to go through and tag all of the props then create the trigger set that will build the garage around the character’s skillset upon first load, then start working on the mission computer and all the conversations therein; in these early builds, the mission computer will be my way of circumnavigating not having a hub for playtesters. So that’s pretty important to get up and running ASAP.

Devblog—April 3, 2017

Here’s the problem with having ambitions: I feel like I cannot meet them.

Life happened a lot this past week, and I got not a lot done; coupled with, I dunno, creative anxiety, and it feels like I didn’t get a lot of stuff done. Still nothing new for playtesters; a lot of last week went into Floor 45 of Vitacorp, and I’m barely into testing the final fight sequence. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors with the trigger system of the Shadowrun Editor, and make no mistake, it’s a lot of work. That said, I’m so close to the end of designing this run (at least this draft) that I can taste it.

Scripting is hard.

It makes sense in my head, and in a weird, almost masochistic way, I almost enjoy doing it, but it is hard. And because I’m not good at it, I know it’s messy. I know there are things I’m overlooking when all I want to do is polish dialogue. So while I can say I added some 10-20 triggers and as many regions, as well as a new combat sequence and a new dialogue, that just doesn’t feel like enough to me, and I don’t really have any new good screenshots to show off. I feel kinda bummed. Need to do better. Need to push harder. I’m staring my laziness, apathy, and mid-project abandonment tendencies in the face knowing full well I’m capable of realizing this project.

But still, progress is progress, and so any week (and any day) I add to the project, I am happy. Because the alternative is no progress.

For now, meet Delacroix.

Delacroix will be your crew’s close-range specialist. But things don’t start off all sunshine and flowers with the shadowrunning adept. She’s damn near full-blooded cajun, and has a temper one should expect of such.

While it’s true that adepts focus on melee-range combat, “Del” is packing a secret weapon in her armor-piercing manaball. This deadly AoE spell has deadly accuracy at close range, allowing Delacroix to damage even high-dodge targets, or multiple targets en masse.

If I figure out crew advancement, and the mod progresses far enough to put it in, I’ll probably do something similar to Gaichu’s progression tree, with options to build Delacroix into either a formidable tank, or a powerful bruiser with buffs to her damage and manaball utility.

Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got for this week. So, stay tuned, and we’ll work through this together!

DevBlog—Mar 28, 2017

After last week’s slump, I really kicked it into high gear.

That said, there’ll be no new version for this week; not enough stuff connected to what’s already published to warrant a re-publish.

PROLOGUE

  • I’d been having a problem with Jae-Soon (the decker) turning to face the character for the dialogue, when, being jacked in, he should probably remain still. Turns out, after a bunch of fretting, there’s a check box that says “Turn to face character” when you set a character to have a dialogue interaction. I knew it was there. I thought it was unchecked. Now it is unchecked. So that’s fixed.

VITACORP

  • Added Matrix nodes with respective triggers for Vitacorp. This is a test-run of a larger concept I want to use throughout SR:New Orleans. The concept is largely translated from the game Hacknet_. Of course, being in SR:R’s system means the full concept can’t be ported over (plz don’t sue me, Surprise Attack). The short version is that the player chooses to unlock different Ports through various means (using HK’s Matrix rather than a straight interface as in Hacknet_), and when the threshold of Ports unlocked has been met, they gain admin access and all of the things that normally go with it.

After seeing a lot of feedback on HK Matrix design, I wanted to go with something that would let Deckers be able to specialize in different areas and choose how they break into the respective system. With SR:NOLA, if a player never wants to dodge Watcher IC, for example, they don’t have to.

  • As the PC and crew are on the heels of another shadowrunner team, Vitacorp’s Matrix defenses have already been compromised, meaning there’s an in-game reason for this run’s challenge to be easier than later ones, giving players a sort of “trial run” to see how it’ll go. In fact, in the current build, with ESP Control 1 (which their NPC Decker has), they don’t even have to do any Matrix combat.
  • The ability to vary available ports and corresponding nodes that comes with it actually allows me or other designers to create sub-puzzles for the Matrix, which means this concept actually serves as a framework for myself or others in later runs. This initial setup is a ton of work, but the payoff will be that a lot of these triggers/functions can be copy-pasted over for later runs.
  • Added a 4-drone combat encounter in the turbine room, and scattered/fixed props in the room for cover. It’s a relatively easy encounter, and necessary to point out that Kate has the Stunbolt spell for an optional vignette later. Pop Kate on a ley line and watch her go to town.
  • Added a 4-NPC merc encounter at the lab elevator. This one’s a bit more difficult, and may need some tweaking depending on what my playtesters find. I might at least add a dragon line or summoning point because right now my mage-y folks aren’t seeing a lot of love in that room.
  • Finished up the scene’s opening dialogue between Kate, Ben (see below), and the PC, adding a boolean option for some dialogue shifts throughout the scene depending on how warmly the player receives the tagalongs.
  • Added a confrontation scene between the crew and a pair of unfortunate businessmen, one of whom being a jumpy elf with a gun. This is one rat’s nest of a conversation tree with several different variations on outcome, including getting the gun, not getting the gun, knocking out the elf, killing both the businessmen, talking them down, and so on. Some of the animations still need work.
  • General prop additions to existing rooms. Too many to effectively list.
  • Added some payroll-security in a side lounge. And man do they have some fun dialogue.
  • Added a wounded NPC for interrogation purposes. She has the alternative method to grabbing the Manager’s ID for folks who have an allergic reaction to all things Matrix, though she is placed such that actually getting the item before it’s necessary is kind of difficult.

Vitacorp now looks like an actual scene. And it ain’t even done yet. I always kind of dreaded looking at my scenes and comparing them to HBS scenes because they feel so bare-bones; so many fewer interactable props, so many fewer regions, but now I’m looking at my first actual run and it feels right. I’ve got Matrix, I’ve got vignettes, I’ve got dialogue (and it flows!). It’s just a real confidence booster to look at this stuff and think, “Hell yeah. Now we’re cookin’ with gas.”

Meet Ben Jameson, aka “Boot”

Ben’s the crew decker for SR: New Orleans. Personality-wise, he’s Kate’s foil: where she is an impulsive spitfire, he’s the guy who just wants to go home (or rather, to the bar) and “wait for this all to blow over.” He’s Kate’s Matrix/camera tech for her online journalism, and also her friend.

In combat, Ben’s a crack shot with the pistol, a weapon he favors because of its concealability, and a decent medic, which places him in a funky middle ground between Monika, Glory, and Blitz. A PC decker will likely outshine him in damage, but if lacking their own Decking ability, Ben’s a fine addition for mid-range DPS and utility. Likely, when I get into building crew advancement, Ben’s tracks may go down either boosting his Decking on one track and healing/ranged abilities on the other.

I’m considering switching Boot over Assault Rifle, because that’s a very plain way to have him as hybrid-DPS. That way, if the player’s a Decker, they might still bring him along, or at least not feel bad for doing so, because AR’s are great even in the HK engine. It doesn’t feel as good story-wise, but hey, Monika was AR/decker, so it’s not like it’s out of the question. But she was an actual cyberpunk, whereas Ben is…not.

The other option is to give him Glory’s machine-pistol so he can pump out burst fire attacks, and later get some better abilities in that field. I like that idea better, but the AR is still on the table.

FUTURE PLANS

My goal (short term) is to finish up the Vitacorp run and the player home and make those available for playtesters by next Tuesday; after that, the rest goes into the hub before and after the Vitacorp run, and I should be happy with the amount of content enough to release Episode 1. I’ll just throw in some cheat options for playtesters to be able to move from scene to scene and at least get the framework established in the absence of a hub for now.

In order to get Vitacorp finished, mostly I need to design the final floor and decide how I actually want to end the scene, where I’ll introduce the final essential crew members. Other than that, the standoff vignette needs a bit of work with its animations, I spotted a few typos on my last test that I’ll want to correct, and I want to add one or two more conversation options for the player where right now there’s only a single track. With regard to the confrontation, I suspect what I’m going to have to do is assign a few variables and end the conversation mid-way to let some physical acting happen and re-pick the conversation up with variables to direct the flow. That’s just a bit larger a project and, I mean, if you look at all the stuff I did up there, you can see why I put it off for later. I’m very much a “get something down, fix/smooth it in later passes later” kind of worker now. And I like the results.

As far as the ending goes, I’m in a bit of a creative bind.

Right now, I’m trying to avoid a rescue situation. I hate the idea of the plucky heroes swooping in right on time. These are Shadowrunners we’re talking about, not damsels. I also don’t want to do the exact opposite, which would be something closer to Megaman X where you walk up to the room outside Vile, hear a bunch of combat in the next room over, and pop in…only in this case it’d be the Shadowrunners around a bunch of corpses, because that overshadows the PC with NPC coolness.

I need to make a creative decision, and I don’t know which way to go.

Devblog—Mar 21, 2017

I took a little more time off of working on this than I’d intended, and so I wound up coming close to Tuesday with very little to show for it. In all honesty, I’ve gotten to a point where I have to start making a bit more difficult decisions—storytelling events I hadn’t considered or planned for, or said “I’ll figure it out when I get there.” Well, now I’m “there”.

So, I set some more realistic short-term goals shoring up a few of the maps currently in-design. When the big distance looks too great to cross, best to measure progress in steps one can achieve.

General

  • Made character sheet templates for Lv 1 crewmates Kate (Salem) and her videographer/decker, Ben (Boot). More on Boot later. They’ll be joining the player on the Vitacorp run, so for testing purposes, it’s important that they have sheets.

Playerhome

  • Several variations of the garage now exist, and I’m happy with how they look. I haven’t gone through the tedium of tagging everything and then seeing if the tags work; once they do, I’m going to do very little further changes because of the pain that’ll come with that, so I want to be as done as possible before actually testing the prop spawns for different classes.

As you can see, the Adept-based room is the least-developed of all of them. And I might just leave it that way; sort of a monastic, spartan dealio perhaps. But it still needs lights, and maybe a few of the rooms need some grunge, then it’s just a matter of tagging the props in each room, overlaying them over the main garage room, setting the trigger so only the right props appear, and we should have a totally variable garage built around the player’s archetype (or dominant stat). Same trigger pattern that decides starting equipment, basically.

  • I resized a few of the other rooms and added some inspection interactions for various items.

I’m now pretty well confident that the abode itself is almost work-ready, meaning it can be added into another map or serve as the base for a larger map of its own when the time arrives. It doesn’t have any dialogues, and if it winds up being where I place the mission computer (like I want), then that’s a whole ugly mess of dialogue and functionality that hasn’t been written yet.

Vitacorp

  • I put some stuff in the two side rooms I’d ignored and actually connected a farther hallway to an earlier side room. They’re now a sort of lounge, and a storage area, respectively.

This next week is going to be largely focused on Vitacorp and finishing up the Player’s abode. If I can make Vitacorp a testable run and get it functioning start to finish, all it’ll take then is connecting what I’ve finished so far to the hub and the hub to Vitacorp and I’ll have Episode 1 ready to go. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, the hub is an immense project that’s going to take a great deal of time and effort, and I’m still not sure what of what I’ve designed I’m actually going to use.

The Vitacorp scene itself has a similar problem in that, now I have this map and I don’t know what to do with it. I mentioned last week that I’m starting to figure out what parts of the design aspect I enjoy, and what still feels like work. Right now, architecture feels fun to me; when I get bored or overwhelmed on my current focus, I’ll open up a new map and just start building for funsies. Actual level/gameplay design is a new thing for me, and in lacking experience, I sometimes stare at the screen for minutes on end just trying to figure out what I should do, or what I even can do.

Since this is a small update, I’ll write a bit about design tricks!

I watched Adam Savage’s One Day Nerf Sniper build recently. In it, he talks about the beauty of weathering—how, essentially, the thing he’s working on becomes “real” when it’s given weathering effects. I’ve had a bit of similar experience with this in the shadowrun editor insomuch as some props are just glaringly bad when placed in a sterile room. The one that really gets me is the basic secretlab crate—a nondescript cubic blue-grey box that’s literally just there to provide cover and fill space.

I’d used a lot of different crate assets in the Rig, which was my first ever real editor build, and each time I put one down on a clean floor, it bugged me. It looked out of place, like the lighting on it was wonky somehow. After multiple builds now, it occurred to me that the magic of the editor comes in its weathering effects. By typing the word “grunge” into the asset library filter, you get a host of ground and wall effects that are just…shit. Dirt, rust, general funk…weathering. By placing some of these effects on a floor, all of a sudden the tile-repeat texture effect vanishes. It’s like fuckin’ magic. Spaces suddenly feel real, lived in. Even more than debris and trash piles, somehow the “grunge” effect just really puts the finishing touches on any room that feels like it’s “lacking character.” As Adam would say, it’s not finished until it’s weathered, and it’s good to know that I found something in the editor that can help create that effect.

Devblog—March 14, 2017

 It’s starting to feel like work now

With Version 0.1 now actually being played by people outside of a test scene setting, I’ve begun to get feedback, and feedback means tweaks and adjustments. This is good, but I’m discovering what parts of the process I really enjoy, and what parts of the process feel like work.

Version 0.11—Changelog

  • I tweaked the final combat sequence in the prologue. As it was, I was using copy&paste fire spirits, which have 242 spent karma. That’s obviously far too powerful for a chargen player; even though the combat is meant to be avoided, there are better ways of conveying this, and the risk of the player getting one-shot was simply too high. So I made a new character sheet for the fire spirits closer to 100 spent karma, and a bunch of it is in useless stats for them like Intelligence (holdovers from the C&P sheet), so realistically they’re probably closer to 60-70 spent karma. This, along with some AI tweaks, should keep players from getting nuked down in a single turn. If it’s still too tough, I already know what further tweaks I’ll make, so it’s just a matter of getting fresh players on it.
  • Moved Penny the secretary in the hightower map a bit over and switched her to a seated stance. Took a few tries to get the chair to line up beneath her just right but I think I got it. May have to change the chair, though. It’s kinda ugly.
  • Added 5+ rooms on what I’m calling the “Vitacorp” map (see details below) and am now assuming it to be the shadowrun for episode 1.
  • Built two new vendor hovels. One is a gun shop designed for ye olde generic street samurai armaments. I f***ing love this room. The stairs lead to an upstairs attic area where an elf monk named Kanon Kai resides. She’ll sell adept wares.
  • I built another bar room, mostly out of idle boredom, but also in the case that my current bar design proves too large to integrate into the hub. This one’s supposed to at least maintain the appearance of some swank (hardwood floors!). The upstairs, where the real fun happens, hasn’t been designed yet.
  • Began work on what may become the player’s abode (see below). As of now, it’s 4-5 rooms, mostly done. It’s a pretty small map. If I’m going to do a NOLA LTG hub like in Mercurial, I should have the space and memory to attach it to here, so that’s what I’m gonna do.

Vitacorp

A few weeks back, I mentioned getting bored/burned out with doing things to get 0.1 ready and started making a new map. I based it largely off the few rooms we get to see of the Jita Corp office in the game Dreamfall: the Longest Journey.

Originally, I’d planned for this to be an Act 2 shadowrun to be released with Episode 2, the plot revolving around a sort of opposite experience to the Ares run in Hong Kong: Team Shadowrunner arrives on the scene after another group of Shadowrunners and has to catch up to them while fighting off the quick-response teams arriving elsewhere in response to the first shadowrunners being there. I might still utilize that plot at some point, but with some minor tweaks, this could easily be how the player encounters the shadowrunners they are pursuing in the meta-story, making this akin to the Drogenkippe run from Dragonfall.

The “point” is to fill the hallways with a bunch of corpses, bulletholes, burn marks, and blood stains, and let the player see the “wake” of a shadowrun.

I still have some rooms I don’t know what I’m going to put in them, but I ripped a bit from some other games and am kind of hashing together a frankenrun off of a hodgepodge of stuff from Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and elsewhere.

Eventually, I’ll hope to have some kind of cohesive narrative, as well as a better name for this corp than “Vitacorp” and at least some idea as to what they actually do, though if this equipment is any indication, it can’t be good. The double-edged sword that comes with a light-content setting is that I can make up stuff as I go, but like with all fiction, it has to make sense. So, I’m taking applications for A-rated “megacorp” or conglomerate names!

Player’s Abode

Rather than use the normal safehouse option, one idea I’ve been tossing around is that the player has their own abode. In the current writing of the script, it gets taken from them as a security precaution when they go deep undercover, but I don’t really see a reason for this. Instead, what I may do is design an abode that serves as the safehouse where they can go to the hub or to the New Orleans Matrix LTG. In other words, their abode is where the player will accept contracts, diddle on Shadowlands, and do all of the normal safehouse-y things except for interact with the rest of the crew, and there’s a reason for that.

I don’t normally make a habit of talking about things I intend to do, but one thing I’m hoping to try out with this map is to give the player a “personal” room; one tied to their history before becoming a shadowrunner, as decided by the archetype they choose at character generation (or skills, in the case of “none”; same way initial gear is given to the player in Hong Kong). By tagging sets of props and attaching them to the player’s archetype, I can hide or reveal a “series” of props along a theme. Say the player is a mage, this “personal room” will be full of arcane accoutrement. Say they’re a rigger, maybe there’s a vehicle and some drone bodies off to the side instead. This gives the player a sense of agency, that not only do their choices matter, but their identity matters. And this is a story about identities; masks. So I think, if it works, it’ll be really fun.

Devblog—Mar 7, 2017

Scenes 1 and 2 now function start to finish

Okay, so what does that mean? It means a player can go from curtain up in scene 1 through scene 1 and get to the end of scene 2, click on the final door and be transported somewhere. The triggers work, the dialogue all…works, or at least doesn’t result in an infinite loop anywhere (at least, so far as I can see…yet).

What it doesn’t mean is that everything is pretty, or that maps are populated and full of props that make things look nice and/or realistic. It means that maybe combat doesn’t function exactly like I want it to. Maybe the player’s able to do things I don’t want them to do or can’t possibly predict they’ll even try to do. So, I’m about a day or two off of playtesting at the time of writing up this devblog.

  • As predicted, I spent most of this week in the Hightower map, which is essentially “Scene 2” fixing dialogue from the tangled mess of spaghetti code I’d originally written for it. Dialogue now flows much more nicely under the hood, allowing it to be added to/taken away from/edited much more efficiently than what I’d had it as before.
  • I added Kate to the Hightower map and gave her dialogue.
  • I added an exterior and small interior lobby section to the Hightower map; originally the player was just spawning up on the high level; with these added interactions, I needed a place for them to be and adding to the Hightower scene is the option that made the most sense. This is what took the most of the week, as building exteriors is not my specialty.

Introducing: Kate Burnside, aka “Salem”

As of right now, Kate will be the first crewmate to make an appearance in Shadowrun: New Orleans. She’s descended from some of the original witches to land in the American colonies, which is where her street name “Salem” comes from; an honorific for the traditions passed down in hers and others’ family lines since well before the Awakening.

When you first meet Kate, she tries to read your fortune, only to reveal that she’s aware of the swamp raid due to her main interest: independent journalism. She’ll wind up joining the character later as camera fodder for her next big story. While she might at first seem like the type to wind up as a damsel in distress, Kate is more than capable of handling herself in combat, and as a thrill-chaser, she’s eager to rush face-first into danger.

I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to build crew advancement, but likely Kate’s paths are going to put her down an either direct damage role or support caster role.

So where do we go from here?

Speaking chronologically, the next scene will be the hub. But, like Hong Kong, it’ll be a hub unfriendly to the player, as they have not yet thrust themselves completely into the world of shadowrunning. This of course means I have to build the hub, and the hub is one of the most intense builds in the editor.

In other words, this next chunk is going to be as time-consuming as it is critically important, and it’s very realistic that I may take a break from “chronological order” development (especially after putting such heavy focus on the goal of a functioning Scene 1 and 2) and focus either on a shadowrun development (as in, an actual shadowrun).

I originally said I wanted “Episode 1” to be done by the end of March.

That gives me 3 and a half weeks. If my design for the hub holds true with no kinks, I do believe that being in playtesting for “Episode 1” by end of March is a perfectly achievable goal. If the hub proves too large to do in one load, meaning I have to break it up, I’ll have to start making critical decisions about its development, and that takes time, testing; and it’s looking like that could very well be the case here depending on what all I want to be a part of the hub.

It also depends on how I want to end “Episode 1”. As of right now, there are only three combat sequences, and that just doesn’t make much of a “game” now, does it? If I want to add a run that’s roughly synonymous with the Drogenkippe in Dragonfall or the first Walled City run in Hong Kong, I have to actually start designing it, and that could take two weeks just by itself, maybe three. If that turns out to be the case, then we might be looking at an April playtest/QA phase for May public release. But, hey, if it comes down to having an actual Shadowrun in this Shadowrun game, I think I’m willing to push back a date I’d entirely arbitrarily set up with 0 experience in the first place.