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!

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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 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—Feb 28, 2017

First of all, HAPPY MARDI GRAS

Kind of a big deal down here, so I’m glad I write these ahead of time. If all goes well, I won’t know who or where I am by the end of tomorrow. I would like to do something parade-ish for Shadowrun: New Orleans, something like the Final Fantasy VIII assassination, but man…scripting that out would be a goddamn nightmare.

Still. Ambitions.

I thought I was at Proof-of-Concept stage. I was wrong.

  • I finally began working with combats and more complex triggers. After getting frustrated at the finicky-ness of the Hong Kong editor, I finally managed to push through and get some real work done.
  • The game is now functional through the first combat. Also, I added some combat. There are currently two sequences, with plans for a gauntlet-style third to wrap up the prologue.
  • I fleshed out the dialogue in the prologue as well as added a new NPC just to vomit some more exposition at the character.
  • One of the guys at Shadowrun Identity made this custom loading screen for me; here’s what it looks like with the (current) prologue chapter loading text.
  • I began work on a new map. Don’t know if it’ll turn into anything, but I just enjoy architecture so I made stuff.

This is starting to look like a real project!

My goal for…probably next Tuesday, is to be able to link the prologue and the recruitment chapters together. This may take more time than I think, but if I can get up to that point, I’ll basically be at where “How We Live, How We Die” is at. And while I made fun of that UGC for being short, only now am I beginning to realize how much work actually goes into these things. Originally I wanted “Episode 1” ready to go, or at least in editing/playtesting phase, by end of March. I’m still wary about being able to make it there, depending on where I cut off Episode 1.

The good news is, while I’m sometimes a bit scattered, everything I’ve done seems to be largely able to be built off of. Meaning it’d be very unexpected for me to take a map or a scene and go, “AW FUCK IT” and toss it in the trash. This last map I worked on because I was kinda burnt out doing stuff I should be doing may be the first one, but it’s so fun I think so far that I’ll try to keep it if at all possible.

That’s it for this devlog. It feels like not a lot got done, in terms of reporting in, but this feels like a profound turning point in the development of this UGC. I feel far more confident with the editor than I ever have before. I wouldn’t dare declare “mastery” (if such a thing is even possible), but I like to think I’m doing all right.

Devblog—Feb 21, 2017

Last week, I talked a bit about thinking about the hub. So, I began building one.

The concept is fairly simple: a 3 “tier” superstructure which the player will bounce around and hit some further exterior sites like the railcar line that will take them to shadowruns, the bar that will serve as the safehouse, vendors, so on, and etcetera. So this week’s notes will be a little scarce, as most if not all of my efforts for the last 7 days have revolved around getting over my fear of exterior maps and working on this hub.

  • Built a “plaza” superstructure that serves an unknown function, but looks pretty. Still needs to be populated with ambient actors and other microstructure (vending machines, clutter, etc) but I like how it begins.
  • Built an “upper tier” area beginning that has a cool overlook. Will definitely use this for a dialogue at some point. It’s just too cool a view to not (though I have to change the fencing).
  • Built the rail car station. New Orleans is known for its streetcar lines (surely you’ve heard of the fictional “Streetcar Named Desire”). Hypothetically, in a cyberpunk future New Orleans, streetcars will be replaced by rail cars with larger capacity and faster function. As of right now, the rail car station is attached to an exterior map, but as work on that continues, that chunk may get relegated to a camera teleport, very similar to the HBS games; Subway ambience works better when it’s in a camera region, and going from exterior to interior almost always requires a transition to move smoothly.
  • Began work on the “street level” chunk of hub, which eventually will attach to the plaza, above. Shamelessly, I’m just stealing Berlin assets and rearranging them. However, the kickass thing I just did is make a facade. If you take a look at any pictures of New Orleans, you’ll see that buildings particularly in the French Quarter, but also in Treme and the Marigny, have these balconies held up by poles. I was able to achieve a similar effect in the Shadowrun editor.
  • Added Shadowrun Identity’s neon signs mod to the content pack’s dependencies, joining Geeked HK. This should allow me to absolutely overburden urban areas with sickening amounts of neon. I took a gander through the assets and have a few ideas about what to use, but haven’t directly implemented anything yet.

The big challenge theme of this week was dealing with sub z-level illusions.

As with everything in the Shadowrun: New Orleans build 0.x, a lot of what I’m doing is just experimenting. Doodling, basically, if such a thing exists in the Unity engine. And as always, I’m playing around with 3D effects and really pushing the system to its limits. Without the pressure of time, I can play around a lot more with some of these illusions, which means I uncover challenges and force myself to adapt.

In the Shadowrun editor, it’s technically y-level, but I come from Dwarf Fortress, so a horizontal plane will always be a “z-level” to me. I was using a sub-z-level wall asset from the Factory tileset, which can stack and make big, grand walls or pillars for illusions that go beneath the level that the actors are standing on. I used this in the original Rig concepts to make the big giant pillars that go down to sea level.

However, what I discovered is that these specific wall assets still function as walls on their footprint when it comes to breaking line of sight and blocking movement. In other words, while they looked like they were beneath the player or beneath the ground, they still stopped them from crossing bridges or seeing on the far side of them as though they were at the actor’s eye level.

As a result, I had to delete or move…basically all of them, and trade them out with Kowloon Walled City sub z-level assets, which do not break line of sight. This is a relatively minor and yet massively profound change. The KWC assets look like sides of buildings, sure. But they look like slums. And on the higher tiers, I don’t want it to look like slums, so I have to mask the assets with pipes and panels and other decor. Which is fine. I’m up to the challenge, but it is still a challenge for the time being, and it will eat time when the time comes to send the maps to “art”…which would also be me.

Let’s talk about plans for the future.

Obviously, this week is probably going to go into continuing work on the hub. My big dread fear is that my ambitions for once outstrip the capabilities of the engine, meaning I’ll try to build too much, too big, and push either the engine’s CPU or memory limits into the red. I mean, I want to add Rio’s hovel to this map, the bar I’ve been working on in the other screen. And considering the actors, dialogue, ambient actor patrol paths that I had set up in those locals, I’m just not sure it’s all possible, and I’ll probably have to make concessions somewhere at some point. I’m endeavoring to reuse assets wherever possible, but I fear as I begin to add actors that this will become a serious problem I’ll have to negotiate, and there just isn’t a rulebook to help me out.

I’ve at least got a checklist to work on. I know I need vendors with their own spaces, and I kind of have ideas for the ones I haven’t yet designed. So I have dreams and desires, which aren’t quite the same as a roadmap. But I’m committed to nonzero days, and that really helps.

Devblog—7 Feb 2017

I added a character named Thibaut to the Hightower map, mostly to give me practice on creating secondary goals, working on the fine art of branching dialogue paths, how to open up a conversation to a branching Q&A session and what to do if at any point the player walks away and then wants to come back and ask questions again, and stuff like that.

I think I wound up making a lot more work for myself, as the entire dialogue path start to finish took roughly 6 hours. In an office environment, working 8-hour days, this might not be a problem. But if I’m only putting 1-2 hours into this project a day, that’s simply unacceptable.

Thibaut’s a fun character. He’s a cajun drone mechanic for the New Orleans Police Service, one of hopefully a few characters that will utilize the traditional N’awlins greeting of “Where y’at?” At one point, I thought people were pulling my leg and that New Orleanders didn’t really say that, until I wound up wandering the city one weird day with a concierge friend of mine and that’s precisely how he greeted others and was in turn greeted by them.

Fun fact, I studied accents in college. I like to think I’m pretty good at them…at least, the ones I studied. Creole, Cajun, and Creole-Cajun (all different accents) I did not study and am in fact terrible at.

Thibaut’s working on a security drone called Tyke, who has a sort of Superintendent (Halo:ODST) speech pattern, but his auxiliary logic core is overheating and so he rarely says the right thing for what he wants to say, and I unknowingly created a sort of pirate-parrot kind of relationship between Thibaut and Tyke.

Chatting with Thibaut will wind up yielding the option to help him out in fixing Tyke for some karma, and hopefully a chuckle or two. I hate options that are only limited to Drone Control, so I added a few of the rarer-utilized Etiquettes as well.

The rest of the week went into brushing up the receptionist and Assistant Director Cain’s dialogue, and fiddling with the lights on the map. I found out that taking off Fog of War actually, uh, works, and makes a noticeable difference. Who knew? Since the Hightower is, at least at this point, friendly territory, I’m taking off Fog of War, but I have to be doubly vigilant that the skyline then doesn’t bleed out into nothing, and I may need to rebuild the sides of the skyscraper itself to complete the illusion.

Unfortunately, that’s about it for what got done this week. Fortunately, I guess, I set a realistic goal for myself. I wanted the Hightower scene to be 90% done by today, and I feel like that’s about where I got it. It’s ready for final touches, which I’ll apply when I can start linking scenes together. Final touches will consist of making sure the dialogue is all still in sync with the story as a whole, adding some ambient actors that don’t speak, maybe giving one or two props an inspection interaction, and then adding story variable flags and scene transition stuff.

So, let’s talk about the future!

Storyline-wise, I’m in a bit of a pickle. I want a second female lead NPC.

The idea came to me at some point during the week, when I was figuring out what I want to do for this week’s Tuesday deadline. And it intrigues me. As writers, we all get into these habits, right? I have an idea about a female character, as many writers do. As I’m a dude, I’m not even going to pretend like I don’t have subconscious biases and preconceived notions about female characters in storytelling and literature. A second female character would be an immense challenge, because I’d have to distinguish her enough from the character I already have envisioned; I wouldn’t have someone I could lump all things “WOMAN” onto.

I was thinking back to Final Fantasy VII, how you have this juxtaposition between Tifa and Aerith, and how Tifa in her own right broke a lot of conventions by being a martial artist. While these days you can’t get away from the women = healer trope in video games, creating a character like Tifa opens up a world of opportunity along with the significant challenge of splitting one character into two and keeping both of them, well, interesting. Also, it could be one of the few (let’s be real: one of the only) Adept-based NPC crew, though I have to admit that part of me is worried that there’s a good reason why HBS never made an adept crewmate.

The more I think about it, the more I like this idea of a Tifa character. The trouble is I don’t have a backstory for her. With the main NPC + female lieutenant I had already planned for, I know generally who they are, what their interests are, what their relationship to one another is. Adding in this other character feels really challenging and totally out of left field.

The good news is I don’t have to make a final decision now.

My goal for next week is to work on the bar, which will first be seen immediately after the Hightower—assuming the player doesn’t go for the Early End.

I think I finally have an idea in my head as to what it will look like, finished, and it’ll be gloriously New Orleans. Right now, I’m thinking of re-naming it La Maison des Moineaux—”The House of Sparrows”. Perceptive folks will note that’s the name of one very important song in the Hong Kong soundtrack.

I’m just not convinced it’s a great name for a bar/strip club/whorehouse/house of shadows.

Devblog: 31 Jan

Introducing…

Shadowrun: New Orleans

Perceptive folks will note that my last post previous to this one was months ago, and I hadn’t touched the editor at all.

Well, apparently that all changed, as now I believe I’m far enough into this project to announce a title and begin releasing a devblog and really starting to ramp up production. It’s amazing, actually, despite even having taken a couple weeks off here or there, and not really having a direction to work in, that I’m at a place where I’m confident enough to say I have a Proof of Concept.

So, let’s talk about what I have and where I am.

At this moment, I have four scenes—two combat, two non-combat, at various stages of (in)completeness. I also have enough of an idea of the big “meta” plot that I feel like I have enough direction to start linking these scenes together.

THE BAR

What I began with was just a sort of vague idea. “Let’s build a bar and see what happens” became “Oh wouldn’t it be cool if there was a hallway lit by red chinese lanterns” to “Oh, this reminds me of the Hustler club that I went to, and wouldn’t it be cool if I…” and that became what I’m currently calling Le Chat Noir, or just, “the bar” for the time being.

There’s another back room of course with dancers and lights and stuff, and there’ll be even more back rooms beyond that where some dialogue will happen, but the dance room’s not done and the back rooms not started, so I’ll just leave that there.

HIGHTOWER

This map I’m calling “Hightower” for right now. It’s based off of an actual building in New Orleans, though I really just used the exterior as an inspiration and built my own interior. This map grew out of, 1) me liking the building, and 2) wanting to learn dialogue. I’ve already got a couple meaty dialogues here with branching paths and skill/etiquette checks, and I’m working on a couple more, and then I’ll fill it out with some ambient actors.

The other thing this map taught me is that I really need to go back to lighting class. I mean, I took one in college for stage lighting, so I’ve got basic concepts down, but I’ve been stealing camera region light settings from HBS’s scenes and they’re just so absurdly dark. Which, when you consider the nature of shadowruns, makes sense, but in this case, this tower is open during business hours. So I turned up the ambient lighting for this, and while it fixed the issue of the building looking totally unoccupied, now all my point lights are too bright, and it’s a white floor so that explains the glare you’re currently seeing.

I’m particularly proud of this corner, even though I’d be lying if I said I made the background from scratch. I did have to touch it up to get what I wanted from it. Stuff like this is ultimately why I decided to work in the Hong Kong engine—I wanted to do 3D stuff, big city stuff, and the Dragonfall and Seattle assets just didn’t allow for that really well, but the Kowloon Walled City and Repulse Bay 3D/background assets have been incredibly helpful in creating the illusions I’ve sought. It’s a subtle effect, but the way the tower itself moves at a different speed from the background just gives the coolest illusion of being in a skyscraper in the CBD. Unf.

THE RIG

The Oil Rig (or just “The Rig” as I call it) doesn’t need much introduction. I haven’t really touched it since I introduced it in its own Reddit post a month or so back, other than to go in and poke and adjust a few props here and there when I was totally not putting off other work. I do still need to build the upper deck and the Matrix nodes and build the combat encounters, but I’m happy with where I’m at with this scene for right now.

THE PROLOGUE

The prologue chapter will be set in the swamp, because you can’t have New Orleans without the swamp. This map I was working on before even the Rig, and I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, or that deep rural environments were an absolute god-awful pain in the ass to design. The SR:R assets were absolutely not designed with forests in mind. I mean, cemetaries, okay (and we’ll get into one of those I’m sure; New Orleans is kinda famous for those). But not forest, or in this case, swamp.

I still have to build an interior where the actual gunfight will occur, and then spice it up with some dialogue and finalize the NPCs in this level and figure out how we go from here to the Hightower scene, which is where we go next, chronologically.

So let’s talk schedules and planning

As a single person who’s never worked in any editor before (I was a console gamer almost all my life up until about 2010), I am by no means promising a speedy development process. Bear in mind, this is also just a hobby. While I’m optimistic that I’m going to finish what I’ve started here, if I took the time to do everything I’ve written down that I’d like to do, with all the big twists and turns and loops and flash, I estimate it’d take most of if not a full year. Even if I put 1-2 hours in it a day.

So instead, I think I’m going to do a more episodic release. Maybe get in the prologue and some exposition with a shadowrun or two to keep things interesting, and let folks give feedback on that while I work on the meat and bones of the mid-story plot and have more experience in level design and working in the SR:R editor under my belt. So with that intent, I feel like if I decide to just do The Rig and maybe one other Shadowrun for “Episode 1”, I feel like I could have this at a playable state by mid to late March. Maybe sooner, but I’m anticipating a wrench somewhere in playtesting given that I haven’t designed a single combat, but I’ve seen enough of how HBS did theirs in Hong Kong that I think I can figure it out relatively quickly.

From here on out, I’m going to try to do a weekly devblog, but it might become biweekly. Or monthly. It kind of depends on what life decides to throw at me. But given that I’ve been pretty solidly pumping an hour, sometimes two, into this thing, I feel like I’ve got enough of a pace to where I can come back on a weekly basis and say, “Here’s what I worked on. Here’s the plan.”

So then, hopefully I’ll see y’all in a week.