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!

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