[OOC]For this forum RP we're going to explore the idea of an alternative world where Ghost in a Bottle MegaCorp is a much smaller independent team struggling to make a niche and obscure adventure game after a successful crowdfunding campaign. It's certainly an outlandish concept, but with Octopus City merchandise all around us and the ubiquitous presence of Ghost in a Bottle in our lives, it is fun to consider how different (and terrifying) the world would be in the absence of the Octopus City mythos. Check the stickied rules topic and create your character in the appropriate thread.[/OOC]
Kickstarter Update #31
Hey guys! Our little art project is coming along nicely and it's time for another update. Making games is hard if you don't have your own army or underground corporate bunker, but we're going to keep it real and do our best. In a parallel universe we would own a sweatshop or two, with dozens of artists and designers working on the most exquisite tentacles, but here in the real world the best a little indie dev can hope for is to fix their shack's roof before the rainy season.
In the previous update we mentioned our intention to release another demo. It will be much closer to our vision for the final product. In addition to new quests and places to explore, the demo introduces several changes to gameplay mechanics that will be discussed in the rest of this update. [OOC: In this world they don't know what an OctoSim is, so they talk in 'game' terms]
Changes to Gossip
The Knowledge or Gossip system is the most important mechanic in Octopus City Blues. The original idea was to treat gossip or factoids as items which can be used on NPCs and other objects. Not all gossip is equal, and you have to be careful about the things you share with people.
In the old system, as implemented in the last demo, gossip had a hierarchy with similar facts grouped under a topic such as "Beetles" or "Vagrants Guild". You acquired individual facts by talking to people or interacting with the environment. You could then approach people and use the field menu to share gossip. In particular, the Professor's quest allowed approaching the Professor with various beetle facts, and by selecting the right things to tell him, you could earn his trust or animosity.
There are a number of issues with this system:
- Outdated information: most of the beetle gossip wouldn't be applicable after the Professor's quest, but it was still accessible in the menu.
- Adventure Game's Bane: such a system encourages players to try every type of gossip on every NPC, and that's not particularly fun. Most NPCs had generic responses for gossip categories (e.g. they will give the same response for all beetle facts), but players might try to exhaust their numerous options just in case there's something worthwhile.
- Boring design: the design of the Professor quest was lacking, simply using good or bad beetle gossip to manipulate a hidden trust variable becomes very mechanical after a while, and it's not the type of interesting NPC interaction that we wanted to do.
These concerns led to a small but major change in the system. Instead of having to worry about individual "factoids", interactions with NPCs are now based on gossip topics or categories. For example, instead of opening the menu, selecting "Beetles", then selecting a particular fact such as "Die if flipped over", you now simply select the topic ("Beetles" in this case) to initiate an NPC interaction. Most NPCs will have one response for the topic as a whole, but in other interactions the individual facts come into play as additional dialogue choices. An example is in the redesigned Professor quest, where instead of feeding the Professor one fact a time, he now challenges you to answer a series of questions about beetles. This might seem like a trivial change, but the conversation becomes somewhat more interesting and you don't have to manually go through a list of options.
Changes to NPC Schedules
NPC schedules were intended to make the game's world more dynamic by giving most of the city's inhabitants their own daily schedules. You could follow them around town as they go home or to work, and their schedules could change over time. This sounds cool on paper, but there were several problems with the implementation:
- A considerable amount of additional animations are needed to have most NPCs walking around the city in 4 directions.
- We had to come up with interesting schedules for each NPC, including having them go home at some point. This requires extra planning, and sometimes it requires extra locations and art as well.
- Bugs, a lot of bugs. Perhaps we have a lousy programmer, but while the scheduling system works fine for a few NPCs, it introduces a lot of potential for NPCs getting stuck, poor pathfinding and lower performance. All of that could probably be fixed, but...
- The value of these detailed schedules was questionable, especially when you consider the alternative discussed below.
We've decided to simplify this system for most NPCs. Some NPCs still keep detailed schedules, particularly if these schedules are relevant in the main story quests. The rest of the characters will have simplified schedules that work on daily basis. For example, you can find the twins digging for dinosaur fossils in the Plaza on odd days, but they will be pickpocketing passengers in the Centipede Station on even ones.
The schedules don't have to be binary, we also have a 5-day week system in place, and we could have NPCs doing something different every day. The main difference is that you won't see the twins physically moving from point A to point B. When a day ends, you get a screen with the new day's name and date, and all NPC locations and animations change afterwards.
This change saves us time and resources, and will help us focus on more important things. [OOC: excuses and more excuses, just like the real GiaB! :P Just kidding, please don't send the spiderbots after me...] We still want to city to feel dynamic and lively. The random dynamic events we talked about in the initial KS pitch will still be around (e.g. giant tentacle randomly exploding or a politician giving a speech in the plaza), and we are still planning to flesh out every NPC through quests and interactions.
The Abandoned Playground
The playground is a new area that will be introduced in the demo. Both the Rednose gang and the Dreamers cult operate in this old and abandoned theme park.
You can check out a cool video of our artist, Marina, bringing this gloomy place to life:
One of the things we struggle with is coming up with cool locations and scenes. It might take more time to design a location than actually drawing it. Marina has to look up all sorts of references, and we might discuss the location and come up with several mockups and sketches before finalizing it. This is one of the biggest time sinks at the moment, and we want to be more efficient.
Karl Crawford is a talented artist and a longtime friend and supporter of Octopus City Blues. He's already contributed a lot of cool art and designs, and he really "gets" Octopus City's influences and style. Starting from this month we're experimenting with giving Karl a more permanent role where he would come up with concepts for areas before Marina starts her own process. Hopefully this will help us work faster and add some new ideas into the game's world. You can check out some of Karl's art below, and you can follow him on twitter for more. [OOC: They can't hire a proper artist so they're hiring a random hobo to do a job!!]
Saving Your Progress
Saving your progress is something that didn't make it into the last demo, but we've already implemented it for the new one. Octopus City Blues will works with a single save file, and your progress is saved automatically when entering a new location or at certain scripted checkpoints. There is no way to mess up or even die, and we hope that such a system will make your experience more unique and interesting.
Localization and Open Source
One system we implemented since the demo is a way to localize the game's text. It's a simple system based on text files and anyone will be able to easily add new translations. In addition to localization, all our tools will be available to the community, and the game itself is DRM-free. The engine's source code (as of the last demo) is available online, and we will share more tools in the future. [OOC: LOL Imagine if the real Ghost in a Bottle Zaibatsu did that. What would the catch be? xD]
We would like to briefly talk about our rewards and plans for fulfilling them:
- #1 OCTOFAN ($1) and CHEATER ($3): No one has claimed these rewards, and Firas remains the undefeated Monopoly champion of the world.
- TENTACLE CUTTER ($10): When the game comes out, you'll get access to the DRM-free files. Since we had a successful Greenlight campaign (thanks!), everyone will get a Steam key as well. When is the game coming out? When it's ready, of course...
- TESTER ($15): We had people test alpha versions and a beta of the demo on the forums, but aside from a few very helpful people, it understandably didn't get a lot of traction. We will probably have a few more beta versions in the future, and we might consider other options for distribution. (Send them by email? We welcome any ideas)
- GROUPIE ($20): Aaron, our composer, is hard at work on the game's soundtrack. This might be available sometime before the game is released.
- SR. TENTACLE CUTTER ($25): This is the "Kickstarter Special" version. We are considering having this as a standalone story released after the full version (Remember the Mutant and Conman stretch goal?) It will be available to backers at this level first, and eventually released publicly. There will also be some incidental easter eggs and extra tentacles in the game itself. How does that sound?
- OCTOMANIAC ($35): This will be a surprise, and it will be digitally available with the full game.
- TENTACLE ARTIST ($50): We have a lot of concept art done by Marina and Karl, and we plan to commission additional artists for a variety of stuff to add to the art book. It might be released with or after the full game.
- USELESS NPC ($75): Sabrina, our sprite artist, has finished the base sprites for all the backer NPCS. They'll be used in a specific dream somewhat near the end of the game.
- OCTOBLOOD JUNKIE ($100): We have had a lengthy discussion about the physical box, and we want to include all sorts of cool things in there. It will be worth it, but you might have to wait a little after the game is released.
- CAPITALIST ($250): We sent out the surveys but haven't started working on this reward yet.
- PATRON ($600): Marina already bought some art supplies to create the coolest tentacle sculpture. We hope to have that done in the coming months.
- HELPER ($1000): Writing a thank you email takes a lot of time and energy, so this lucky backer will have to wait a little longer.
Someone asked us about Kickstarter updates, and we think it's a good opportunity to discuss some of the reasons for the delay between updates:
- We are trying to avoid showing too much content (spoilers).
- Most of the updates are similar: we are still working, there is some progress, there are some setbacks, we are doing our best, etc.
- It actually takes time to prepare a good update, and that time could be spent on other things.
- We’re active on social media and can be reached by email. If anyone has specific questions or concerns then we’d love to answer them.
With that said, we do try to have regular updates. At least one update every couple of months, or more if there’s something noteworthy. We could have monthly updates if people prefer them, but they’d be less interesting.
And that's all for today's lengthy update. Until next time!
OOC: Whew! That was a lot of writing. It's fun though, the naïveté and passion of this random small team making a dumb art game. With that said, I bet they'd still do a better job than the real deal. You can buy artists and coders, but you can't buy a soul! Anyway, feel free to post more made up content and stories in this fictional universe. It would be fun to think about the corporations running this fictional world without GiaB, and what people do for entertainment in a world with no OctoSims