So, uh, we're still working on the game
Howdy folks! We're still hard at work on Spy DNA, and time flies when you're having fun, so... we totally didn't mean to leave you without an update for this long. Good news: there are many updates, making this post particularly meaty.
We'll cover procedural mission generation, how we keep the complexity manageable for the player, character creation, status, skills, and attribute screens, and the (final) UI refresh.
By the way, if you're not following us on Twitter, Tumblr, G+, or Facebook, you totally should, because all these updates were posted there as soon as we published them on our blog. Alex is also pretty good at replying on Twitter and Tumblr, if you have any questions for us.
Alrighty, let's dive right in.
At its core, Spy DNA has a complex combat simulation, which took thousands of lines of code to create. We totally geek out on all the tiny details that lend the game its realism, but we don't expect the player to first have to learn how to play our game. We want you to be able to grasp the underlying mechanics intuitively, and simply focus on playing the game.
When you play Spy DNA, one of the things you will notice is that we have a lot of attributes compared to most RPGs. I’ve heard people give talks saying that six attributes is too many for an RPG, and I consider that silly. I mean, if a console sports game can have 38 attributes (MLB the show), I don’t see why a serious PC RPG shouldn’t have more than 6.
This is where we clearly see the difference between perceived vs. real complexity. By all accounts the simulation in the MLB game is more complex, but because each attribute is clear and easy to understand and relate to in real-life terms, it never feels difficult to understand or play.
By comparison, when you have too few attributes, the attributes have to stand for things that are not obvious from the name, such as using dexterity for speed, strength for hit points, or intelligence for spellcasting. Each game has a slightly different system, making it necessary for the player to learn a new set of artificial rules with each game. Learning abstract rule sets is a thing that humans aren’t very good at, and therefore perceive it as complex.
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Ever wondered how we create our generated missions? Have a peek behind the curtain and learn how the missions are built from the ground up, including random NPC generation.
In most cases, unless it’s an NPC that persists throughout the game, we fully randomize gender, skin color, and body type. Military personnel will [...] have fewer choices in the body type department, as we will only allow them to have an “average,” “fit,” or “fighter” fitness level. Civilians get a fourth option in fitness level: “unfit.” The level of fitness and body type aren’t just for show either, they influence the body owner’s attributes as well, so if you meet someone who looks strong and fit, they very likely are.
To make sure that the spread of different body types is more realistic, we weight the probability of each of them occurring. After all, you don’t see twenty-five MMA-fighter-level-fit people for every hundred you meet.
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We put a lot of effort in making the players character fully customizable. Now a few of you gave us a hard time for going overboard here. The reason we put so much effort into this is we unified it with NPC generation. This will let us generate much more unique NPCs for each mission and avoid repeating the same character models over and over.
During character creation you will be prompted to choose your commanders frame (skinny, average, or heavy), and condition (pro-fighter, fit, average, nerd). This choice determines which character model you will see in game and will also change your attributes. The condition choice biases your attributes towards physical or mental, while the frame choice is a speed/dexterity vs strength/toughness choice.
Related to this we implemented our appearance reaction model. Each appearance item is rated on several metrics, such as Serious, Classy, Scary, and the ability to conceal weapons or armor. So while you may want to bring the heavy armor to the dinner party, doing so will make it much harder to get people talking, at least by verbal means.
Earlier this year Alex spent a lot of time catching the UI up to the current style. What this means is that while many menus such as chat, information/inventory screen, and in-game pop-ups and dialogs have been using the styling that we intend to ship Spy DNA with, other elements were still using outdated graphics. Most noticeably, inventory icons. Visit the blog for before-after comparison