Archive for month: March, 2015

27 Mar
March 27, 2015

Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity.

People, this is not a drill! I repeat, this is not a drill! Proceed to your designated assembly points immediately!

In completely unrelated news, System Crash will be delayed by, oh, let’s say 3 months.

Script Surgery

25 Mar
March 25, 2015

This post will contain a minor spoiler about the game’s plot. Don’t read if you want to be completely fresh.

In the last dev update I talked about how I was updating the narrative to have a bit more punch, a bit more personal conflict right out of the gates.

An important problem to tackle, that, but not the only plot issue I’d identified. The other, trickier problem, is moving the inciting incident to an earlier point in the narrative.

For those who aren’t familiar with script writing terminology, the inciting incident is the plot event that kicks the protagonist out of their everyday routine and forces them to grapple with the core conflict of the narrative, whether that’s saving the world or winning the heart of their love.

It’s Luke Skywalker finding Princess Leia’s message, Trinity contacting Neo, Ned Stark being called to King’s Landing. It’s Gorian’s murder and Imoen’s kidnapping in Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2.

And it’s best if you get to it fairly quickly, so as to give the story direction and movement. Wait too long to kick things off and your story feels limp and uninteresting, your audience gets restless and starts to lose focus. Like a crowd forced to wait too long for the band to come on stage.

And this, unfortunately, is what I did with System Crash. I kind of outsmarted myself (The KISS principle is something I wholeheartedly endorse but often forget to practice myself 😛 ). I had this “neat” idea that I’d write a number of smaller story arcs that seemed isolated from each other, but would eventually be revealed to be tied to the main plot arc. So that later in the game the player would go “Aha! X and Y were actually about Z!”

Which sounds, like I said, neat, but my execution was a bit flawed. I held off on starting Z, the main plot arc, until the X and Y mini-arcs were finished. Which is a lot of stuff to get through before the story really gets its main surge of energy and motivation. The smaller arcs aren’t compelling enough, by themselves, to hold attention.

The answer, of course, is to start Z, the main arc, earlier. I’ll run it concurrently with X and Y, but make sure that X and Y are completed before getting to the part where it’s revealed that they’re linked to Z.

So that’s why I’m moving the inciting incident forward. It’s really the kick-off point for the main arc, for Z.

What that has entailed is figuring out how to rearrange the pieces of story that I have into a new, more compelling configuration. I really don’t want to rewrite a lot of narrative, I just want to shuffle what I have. Luckily, since there were already a number of smaller arcs, they can be rearranged without breaking the entire structure. The change looks something like this :


System Crash Sections Sml


System Crash Sections 2 Sml

Notice how much more overlap there is in the starting bit, and how much earlier that yellow blob starts. 😉

I think this will be better. I hope so, I’m not rewriting the entire bloody thing.

Creating Juicy Explosions in Vlambeer’s Nuclear Throne

24 Mar
March 24, 2015

Arc Effect

23 Mar
March 23, 2015

An interesting piece on how the arc was the unifying visual element in the Mass Effect series.


Plug Me Into The Matrix

20 Mar
March 20, 2015

I don’t know if VR is going to be the Next Big Thing. I don’t know if they have/will iron out the motion sickness issues.

But I DO know that I desperately, desperately want a VR spaceship dogfighting game.

A Study

18 Mar
March 18, 2015

Did this one a while back, thought I’d share. Fairly quick, and what’s up with that tiny hand?


The (Not So) Final Countdown

17 Mar
March 17, 2015


As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m busy spicing up the beginning sequence of System Crash, making sure there is an early conflict to motivate the player and drive the gameplay forward.

Making the early game interesting is important for convincing folks that it’s worth buying the demo to see what happens next. 😉

Paying Miriam the Loan Shark her money back before time runs out is the driving factor in the early narrative. But that new plot device, of you needing to pay her back in 30 days, added a complication – namely, that System Crash doesn’t track game time at all.

It would feel fairly limp, slapping the player with a big “You’ve got 30 days, go go go!” narrative and then failing to actually exert any genuine time pressure. We’ve all played games like that, right? The world is in desperate peril! But oh, you want to do 30 or 40 side quests and pick some herbs before tackling the Evil Necromancer? Sure, no problem bro, the Undead Hordes will wait patiently over here…

No, that won’t do. So I thought about adding some sort of actual time tracking mechanic, before remembering that I’ve been working on this game for over 3 years now and fuck that. So instead I (mostly) used the systems that I’ve already built, creating a simple script variable that tracks the countdown toward Miriam’s deadline, and adding a little bit of code to be able to display dynamic script vars in the objective/mission text strings.

And, to keep things simple, I’ve made it that doing a mission, any mission, ticks the counter down by 1 day. Easy to setup in the XML scripting system I’ve built, and viola, genuine time pressure.

(From this point on there will be spoilers for this early section of the game, don’t read if you want to go into System Crash completely fresh.)

But that brought up a different problem. I have intentionally designed System Crash to be fairly ‘casual’. By casual I don’t mean simple, I mean that it’s something you can play casually, here and there. Pick the game up, play for 20 minutes, unlock a new card or two, try a new deck and progress the narrative a few beats.

What I specifically don’t want is for a player to play for a while only to realize that they’ve screwed their campaign progression because of some decision they made 10 missions ago, unknowingly. I want missions to challenge players, but I don’t them to get really stuck. And that includes losing the game because they fail to gather Miriam’s money by the deadline.

So what I’ve done instead is added a little branching. You can fail that objective. In fact, you can simply refuse to pay up, even if you have the money. The game won’t stop. Instead, Miriam sends her goons after you. Wave after wave of them. And, at a certain point in the storyline, you won’t be able to progress in the main plot arc until you deal with them.

But you can deal with them. The fights aren’t very rewarding, in that they don’t drop much in the way of rewards (you may still enjoy the battle, regardless. I don’t want to make them dull). But if you beat enough of your attackers, Miriam eventually decides that this whole endeavor is proving too costly and calls off her dogs. And you can carry on playing the main arc again.

So those are your options. Either pay the money, or beat a number of optional fights. Pay some of your in-game currency, or pay with your time.

You might be asking, at this point, “well, why would I ever pay her, then?”

Well, I’m not going to actually tell you (outside this blog) that you can ignore her threats. So some people will do it just because it seems like it’s the game’s designated path. Or because they want to skip the goon fights and progress the story quicker. And for those who refuse/fail to pay, it might be kinda cool to see that the game responds to that, you don’t just hit a game over screen.

I think it’s kinda cool, personally. If I had the time and resources, I’d flesh out the rest of the campaign with interesting branching choices and long-term consequences. But, as I said, I’ve already sunk a huge amount of time into SC, so I’m holding those ideas in check for expansions/sequels/new games built using these systems. With the core tech built, expansions will focus more on doing interesting things with content and fleshing out the world/characters in System Crash.

Something I’m really looking forward to. 🙂

Screenshot Sunday

15 Mar
March 15, 2015

Oh, that Miriam. What a charmer.


Rogue Moon Studios’ Elegant New Logo

14 Mar
March 14, 2015

Courtesy of my lovely girlfriend. She’s a much better graphic designer than me (compare this to my last attempt, below).



Logo design is a surprisingly tricky art. Making something that is attractive and iconic but instantly readable. My instincts run to throwing a bunch of detail in there, cluttering it up. But I’ve learned the hard way, that looks pretty shit at smaller resolutions.

There’s a reason Nike uses that swoosh and Apple their, well, apple.

12 Mar
March 12, 2015

The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed (among pigs).