September Update - More info on the PAC engine!
Here’s an update on where we are at:
Programming – The programmers have been tackling some rather complex load/save functionality these past weeks but also a TON of work has gone into our scripting system, allowing Karl to handle 90% of all interactions himself. That said, I’ve asked Karl and Nathan (one of our programmers) to give us a bit more of a glimpse behind the scripting engine as this is where these guys spend most their time…
Nathan: As Dave has mentioned in previous updates, we have been developing a custom XML scripting system that we are using to define the ways in which the player interacts with the game. We're doing our best to make it as robust as we can in order to maximize the amount of gameplay that can be scripted rather than hard-coded. This month we wanted to detail a bit more about the game scripting and puzzle logic. We have/are creating a game engine that can not only display animations, play sounds, and show text message through Unity, but that can also process scripted logic for puzzles and game behaviors. This is our PAC engine. Which stands for Point And Click engine.
The PAC engine uses a custom XML scripting system (we chose XML because of our team’s familiarity with it) to control the interactions and results in the game. And this is where the power of our system really comes in to play. Instead of having the game hardcoded on a room by room or object by object level by myself or one of the other programmers, we have empowered Karl (or anyone else) to script that logic himself by defining it in the xml files. So we have basically given him a 'toolbox' of options that can be used to create virtually any interaction he wants. However, this means that there is a ton of tedious work as every object has to have its behavior defined – including how it works with all the commands, other objects, rooms and animations.
Karl: Right. For instance, in the Dragon Room from the video below, the design calls for the dragon to breathe fire at you after every turn (a turn is completed after a player uses any command except LOOK). For this puzzle we have an excellent example of special case scripting– in this case it revolves around the iron shield. If you have the shield equipped on your arm, then it is raised to block the dragon fire from turning you into a crisp. If you do not have the shield equipped, then the fire engulfs you and sadly your adventures have ended. An additional condition is set so that if you stay in the room and do things, additional blasts of fire will cause the iron shield to quickly disintegrate. For this item logic, the XML script uses ‘On-turn behavior’, allowing for scripting things that happen each turn in response to the player's actions. But don't worry, we've also scripted it so that you can beat a hasty retreat backwards out of the room should you find yourself shield-less.
Nathan: This is a simplified description of one scripted PAC engine conditional for that room. The toolbox of xml script commands contain many more things that we can add to rooms, objects and behaviors. We can define scripted actions for every command we have in the game. We can control things such as Random events which are basically a dice roll to decide if something is going to animate or appear. We can fire things off when you enter or exit a room or after every turn in a room. As mentioned above in the dragon room we can base actions off a series of conditions. As we mix and match these script and interaction commands you can begin to see the power and flexibility of the engine.
Karl: So, that brings us back to what we are working on currently- which is hooking in the animations and sounds for our puzzle logic sequences- a real milestone for us because we can see the game script, engine work, and art/sound assets coming together in a full visual experience on the screen controlled by the game engine.
Artwork - Chris has around 8 rooms left to paint before moving on to some UI changes we need him to make. Rooms can take quite some time to finish since he needs to paint all the objects (in multiple states and for the inventory) in additional to the background. Wang has finished the first two sets of cut scenes and all the death (and hidden death) scenes.
Audio - As I mentioned last month, all the music audio is finished and there are only a handful of sound effects to go and Rich will get to those when the art for those rooms are completed. Also, over the next few weeks, the script for the cut scenes will be complete and we’ll hire the voice over actors to literally breathe some life into them before Rich wraps it all up with a score.
Rewards - For those who ordered The Quests of Shadowgate card games, they just arrived this week! You can learn more about the card game HERE. So, now that they are in, we can bundle them with posters and shirts and have a packing and shipping party in the next couple of weeks. Also, our great cartographer Jarod Blando completed the cloth map last month for those who are getting the box game and it has arrived as well. It’s awesome! (Oh and Kenny has started shipping the small staves as well.)
That’s about it. We’re doing everything we can to make the game a blast and get it done asap! If you have a questions, just ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and here is a video of showing a bit more of the PAC engine in action. Again, sorry about the quality - it's a Kickstarter thing...
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