This week we have a journal packed with juicy information. What is on the menu you say? An in depth explanation on upcoming difficulty settings (or as we call them, playstyles), our plans for the year 2017, a behind-the-scenes video of our Narrative Director’s recording process and much more! So grab your cat, a cup of tea and enjoy.
Most people have an opinion about game balance; resource distribution and most of those opinions are valid in one way or another. Unfortunately it is not possible to address or support every individual preference and still create the overall game experience we are targeting. What follows here may give you some insight into the design philosophy behind “selectable player experience” and difficulty settings.
As we have found from interacting with you and reading the forum posts, players of WHF generally group into three categories or playstyles. For this reason we are taking a playstyles rather than pure difficulty settings approach to make balancing the game for each category of player a realistic proposition.
Explorers: These gamers are story oriented or simply want to investigate the world but usually do not want to spend lots of time looking for food and water to stay alive, and are generally not looking for an arduous combat challenge.
Adventurers: These players prefer a more balanced gameplay with some challenge but not too much difficulty. They may or may not care about story but probably don’t hate having it around them. In this setting the game is a blend of survival and traditional action game elements - pretty similar to the game that is currently playable.
Survivors: These gamers prefer the more hardcore aspects of survival games and love a punishing, if motivated, challenge. In this setting, the game increases the importance and demands of survival game mechanics. Our tentative names for these categories are BIRDWATCHER, DOWNER, and VIGILANTE for now. Sarah has mocked up what the selection screen elements might look like:
Each of these playstyles brings inherent difficulty/challenge adjustments, but they aren’t purely about difficulty. Think of them as “packages” that tailor the experience more to your personal preference. The sorts of changes associated with the packages include but are not limited to your starting inventory items, the AI aggression, durability, and suspiciousness, crafting prerequisites, resource amounts and distribution, carrying capacity/encumbrance for your character, rate of food spoilage and weapon/item degradation, effects and duration of various drugs and other buffs, and much more. The baseline for tuning is the DOWNER playstyle from which BIRDWATCHER and VIGILANTE are modified.
Additionally, if you want to further control the challenge or flavor of a playstyle, you have the opportunity to choose whether you play on “second wind” or permadeath. We’re getting rid of the existing second wind mechanic (see below), and this mode will basically be normal - you can resume playing after death with modest penalties. However, permadeath kills you forever.
We felt that the existing second wind mechanic didn’t make much sense (“waking up” from dying in a damaged state), and it led to a bunch of problems with respawning, design (what happens if you can’t get a healing balm?), and problems in the story mode etc. So instead, as your health (or food/water/disease on Downer or Vigilante) gets low, eg 10-20%, you’ll enter that dying state without blacking out.
Overall, our intention is to address your varied desires for a game set in the world of Wellington Wells that is both a survival game and not a survival game; that is about the exploration of narrative mysteries or a focus on stealth, combat, conformity and crafting, or a game that is something in between. In all cases we think that WHF has a configuration for almost all players.
This week I have been cleaning up the script to the Church of Simon Says a bit, and have also completed a first pass on a Retirement Home for little old ladies. This place is dangerous! They will not hesitate to call the Bobbies as soon as you are seen. This is partly because they call the Bobbies at any given opportunity, and not necessarily because they’re in danger… naughty old ladies.
Hello good people! I’ve been working on making sure we can play through Arthur’s story from beginning to the end. It’s of course in a rough state but you can do all the missions and get to the end and actually finish the game. Exciting!
I’ve also been working on some new little challenges. We are now treating the shelters as areas you need to “unlock” in order to use them. Like in the new intro shelter, where you have to fight a Wellie that went “wakey wakey”, other shelters will feature small challenges. Some will have you explore completely dark environments with the torch, or you may have to navigate a live wire running through water.
Clara dropped by Signal Space (our audio partners) as I was directing Tony Robinow. Here’s what she saw:
To expand just a little on that last little bit... you have to listen to your gut. When the actor is really inhabiting his character, I feel it. The studio disappears for a moment and the character is there. It's a thrilling moment. When the actor is not inhabiting the role, I don't feel it. Part of the skill of directing is learning not to pretend you feel it when you don't.
Hearing what you're actually hearing, as opposed to what you want to hear, or what you fear hearing, is something children and dogs do instinctively, and teenagers and adults unlearn, and artists have to learn again. You have to remember to ask yourself, sometimes, "Did I really believe that?"
The other side of directing is figuring out what words to give the actor to help him or her get from where he or she is to where I want them to go. Sometimes it's just calling shenanigans on the delivery. "I didn't really believe that."
Or, with a trained actor, you can often shorthand it. You can say, "More anguish," knowing they have the tools to get there on their own.
But best practices is giving the actor an adjustment in the form of an imaginative circumstance. I don't think I ever say, "Louder." Instead I say, "Okay, now project it a bit more, as if the person you're talking to is on the other side of the street." Or, “You need help, and there’s no one around!”
"Okay, but now, as if you know the person you're talking to. You're not only betrayed, you've been betrayed by your best friend."
"As if" are the most important two words in the director's toolkit. (See John Badham’s book on directing, I’ll Be In My Trailer.)
I can give a line reading, but when the actor is mimicking my delivery, it almost always comes out sounding hollow. I then have to say, “Okay, now make it your own.” If I have to give a line reading, I’ll try to use a paraphrase of the line rather than the words of the line themselves, and I won’t use a British accent; I’m trying to convey the emotion, not the delivery.
A believable performance isn't the same as a "realistic" performance. It's the emotional truth that carries the line. A big, stagey but emotionally truthful performance is believable. (I believe it's often called "opera.") A performance that mimics what a real person does, but doesn't convey the emotion behind it, won't convince the audience.
When the actor inhabits the character, it's amazing. A line you wrote fifteen minutes ago can catch you off guard and make you laugh as if you just heard it for the first time. When I laugh, I know the line's a keeper.
Upon getting feedback, I spent the beginning of the week finalizing a few minor details of the environmental art pass of the train station.
Afterwards, I remade my old holly bush tree from scratch. Across the past year, by trial and errors, I learned quite a lot on how to create foliage that is optimized and stylized. Trees are highly complicated objects that can't be represented in-game without a lot of hacking. Because of technical constraints, we can't represent all of the tiny branches and leaves as separate geometry. We instead combine them into planes with areas which have transparency. You can see down below the textures that have been used.
I also updated the old barrel mesh (and at the same time, the flower pots) mostly with textures we already have in-engine.
After that, I started to adapt the church to the level designer's layout. Throughout the week, I've also been helping the level designers on house layouts and workflow.
Hi guys, I’m the new environment artist! This is my second week at the company and I have been doing a little bit of everything. One of the main tasks was to optimize the assets. We have a lot of them in our libraries and some are old or not used anymore. So I have been going through a list and deciding which ones we should delete, keep or improve so the game looks even better!
After cleaning all the assets in the libraries we started having our Death cubes* everywhere that I replace after with new props.
*We use this asset to replace with the old one so it's easier to identify where the asset was. It’s better to have something glaringly obvious than something subtle.
I have also been fixing some bugs with disappearing bridges (where parts of them appear at distance but others don’t, making them look strange), so they won’t disappear in the future. So far I think that’s all for me, have a great weekend!
Hi all! I am new programmer here at Compulsion Games and this week I will talk to you about Artificial Intelligence.
From a programmer perspective,when it comes to the artificial intelligence of our game, we have chosen to move away from a pure simulation approach for every AI. But what does that mean, you ask?
Well, partly this will help to achieve better performance, but the real goals are to improve the readability of the characters in relation to the player's conformity, and also to improve our control over group behavior! It is our belief that in some situations, the easier it is to predict a character’s reaction, the better, because you want to reward the gamer that uses good strategy. If it’s unpredictable, it becomes less about strategy and more about reaction.
Artificial intelligence is a really popular subject these days with a ton of research funded, from self-driven cars to personal assistants. For a game, it is more about creating a good action-reaction loop with the limited resources available! In next entries, we will update you with more details on how that will affect the gameplay, so stay tuned.
Hi folks! At the end of last week, we mentioned that we’d talk about 2017 plans in this week’s update. This begins with talking about the Clockwork Update from last year.
We released the Clockwork Update on December 8, after releasing the game in late July. As you may know, an update like this (where we’re refactoring stuff to improve the quality of our work) means that we need to add some time to the end of the development, or cut existing planned content.
We don’t want to cut content, and we’d rather spend more money and time on the game. So, the updates will keep coming along, it just might take a bit longer to get to 1.0. As usual, once we have firm timing on updates and the release date, we’ll let you know. We want to be up front and open with you guys whenever we face challenges or delays like this. But, to leave on a positive note, 2017 is going to be awesome. We have an exciting next few months planned, including:
- The next update! We hinted at this last year, and it will contain the playstyles listed above, the second village island, a whole bunch of new content to play through, and more.
- New partnerships to help expand the game world! This sounds like a boring corporate thing, particularly because we can’t announce them yet, but we are very excited. We’ll announce them soon, and hopefully you’ll be as excited as we are.
Thanks for tuning in!
Discuss this post here