It’s October, which marks the beginning of our third month since Dead State’s Kickstarter was successfully funded. Our team continues to turn out new content, GUIs, animations, and gameplay code. We’ve made significant improvements to the Shelter, including finishing all the upgrades, giving the constructed areas a “scavenged materials look”, and finishing off the basement and second level. Additionally, I’d like to present this image:
What you’re looking at may not be a “pretty” area, but it’s pretty exciting to us. That’s the starting area of the game right there. Your decisions are yet to be made, your map is blank, your allies are all still alive, and your enemies and the undead are lurking out there – this is the moment where your story begins. We’re pretty excited about this image, just because we know what’s in store for you. It’s that moment in every game where you don’t know what to expect yet, where you can’t wait to get out and experience everything. (“Experiences” that we’re working on right now.)
Design continues to work primarily on dialogue. As stated before, there is not only a lot of dialogue, but complex dialogue that spans great lengths of time and decisions rather than the length of completing a quest. I thought it might be interesting to shed some light on our ally creation and dialogue writing process. It starts with Annie and I discussing concepts for characters in the shelter. Usually, everyone we add needs to create a potential conflict or interaction with one or more other characters in the shelter, plus bring a set of skills and personality traits that are not duplicated by another member of the group. We usually try to figure out if the character is going to be more useful in combat or out of combat, or if they unlock some other potential aspect of the shelter, like a new type of job or a prized skill (like a doctor). We also try to figure out if the character is traveling alone or with others – if they’re traveling with someone, it instantly creates an interesting narrative point, but that bond needs to be reinforced throughout the dialogue and even in the gameplay.
After we’ve come up with the basics of the character, we put together a bio for the character. We use backstory for writing purposes only, to give us a more fully-fleshed out character whose life did not begin when the player met them. While you’ll never see the backstories we create, elements of their lives will creep into their dialogue, and an attentive/inquisitive player will learn a lot more about their allies over time. Sometimes you may not know about certain aspects of the character unless a certain path is triggered, like watching them die from infection or gaining enough trust from a friend of theirs. However, like in real life, you will never fully understand everything there is to know about an ally (unless you’re one of the writers).
We translate their former profession and hobbies into stats and skills. Someone who was a park ranger might have a high survival skill because they can identify plants and a higher vigor because of time spent walking trails. They may have a perk for traveling faster on the area map because they know how to lead people through difficult terrain. These are gameplay skills that may make an ally more appealing if their character’s dialogue makes them seem difficult or combative with other allies. We balance gameplay advantages and personality flaws for every character you can add in the shelter.
Before writing the character, a list of every interaction possible with the player or other allies is made. This outline is used as a guide to track all the events we need to write. If we feel there’s a lack of interesting dramatic points or decisions, we will add them at this stage or while writing. We also simplify any chains of events that seem too complex or frustrating for a player to figure out. Some adjustment may be made to pace a character’s arc out over time to make sure they continue to pop up in the story. Additionally, we figure out any random events this character might be associated with and questions that the player may want to ask them (including dialogue for resolving personal requests).
From here, it’s all dialogue writing, which can introduce even more nuances and character developments that can only come out as we are subjecting ourselves to that character’s point of view. And now you understand a bit more about the dialogue process. We’re hoping the extra effort provides an experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
That’s it for this update. Remember, you can always interact with us on the forums if you’ve got questions. If you have received a survey (anyone $21 tier and up did) and still haven’t returned it, please do. For those with Radio access, expect another update very soon. As always, thank you all for making this possible.
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