Weekly Update - Sick Update!

Hey all! 

Another week has come and gone here at the studio and things are getting busier by the day. Before we get to what the team has been up to we just wanted to remind you that the whole team is very much present in our forums. If you would like to ask someone a specific question, talk about the game or about video games and other fun stuff, feel free to drop by :)

Programming Team


I was exasperated at our placeholder effect for food poisoning still being in place after so long, so I finally caved in, took a break from my usual fare, and decided to do a polish pass on status effects. I always intended for food poisoning to be somewhat reminiscent of the real thing and also to try to capture the progression of food poisoning symptoms from the classic roguelike Nethack. 

Should the player be foolhardy or desperate enough to eat bad food, there is a chance it will cause food poisoning. The worse the food, the worse the symptoms, though if the player keeps eating tainted food, a case of mild food poisoning can still develop into a lethal one. 

The first symptom is dizziness, which causes blurry vision and slows down the player:

Mild cases will wear off over time with no further penalty. But more serious cases will eventually cause vomiting (courtesy of Vincent): 

Left untreated, this only stops when the player has spewed out the entire contents of their stomach, reducing hunger to 0.

It doesn’t stop there! Truly hapless players who have managed to contract lethal food poisoning will keep on dry heaving, losing health each time, progressing to fainting and an eventual horrible, painful death:

Have a care not to let this happen! Gameplay wise, the idea is to have bad food be a viable but risky gamble in a pinch, but to have that risk balance itself out. For instance, if the player keeps gorging on raw meat, that mild food poisoning might develop into a case of vomiting, in which case all that short term hunger will be lost unless treated. 

Aside from food poisoning, I felt we also needed some more general purpose polishing of status effects, namely in properly animating and communicating their progression. So just in time for the last update, I took the time to create some simple animations for their application, which can be seen in the sequences above. Status effects that can eventually kill the player will pulse regularly. I also implemented UI feedback on the health and stamina bars for changes to their maximums, as we will be adding items that can permanently boost these. Lastly, I prototyped Infection, which reduces health and can be contracted from dirty bandages or ongoing bleeding:

This will also need design and iteration, but the idea is that staunching a wound might satisfy the short term health damage at the cost of some vulnerability until the infection is treated or fades away.

Narrative Team


Happy Imbolc, everyone!

The other day a narrative designer friend o’mine who works at a Big Studio tweeted, “Pro tip: if you design a narrative/audio heavy feature, loop them in early so they can spot potential problems before they happen”.

Compulsion is a strange beast - something in between a 4 person indie team and a 100-500 person AAA team.

What we get in return is that the team is small enough that everyone talks to everybody. At least, I talk to everybody.

For example, Mike is designing in-game tips. How do you pick up a body? How do you throw one? An in-game tip can throw you out of the game world if it’s written in gamer terminology; on the other hand, if it’s not clear, it’s useless as a tip. So I have to figure out how to rephrase the tip so that it sounds like our world.

Meanwhile, Valentino is building soundscapes for the introduction. There’s a critical flashback to a traumatic event. He’d like to know: what does that sound like? I’ve already recorded and edited the dialog, but what else do we hear? There’s a train. Do we hear steam building? A whistle? A bell? Crowd walla?

Meanwhile, there’s an encounter where you can find a note on a bobby describing you. Well, it takes a level designer two seconds to write that. It sends me down a rabbit hole. Who’s writing the note? What tone is it? Is it officious? Are they scared of you? Do they want the bobbies to follow normal procedure? What is it? Or do they want the bobbies to take care of you by any means necessary?

Meanwhile, David is working on combat buffs. I feel an urgency to rewrite the combat buffs into the voice of the game world, to strengthen your immersion in it. Oh, and, sometimes we want both the player character and the NPC’s to react when these buffs take effect. So those lines of dialog get added to my dialog list, and I start pestering our sound guys to set up another recording session.

And since I’m recording and editing all sorts of cutscene dialog and gameplay barks and encounter dialog... I have to keep after the sound guys to make sure none of it gets lost along the way.

And, there is a Very Important Article that you’ll read in-game that wasn’t clear enough. So I rewrote it, and that meant poor Whitney had to throw out her old painting and make a new one. And then the advertisements were wrong for the date, so we had to fix that. In this game, the advertisements look like throwaways, but they’re important lore, and they’ve got to not only be consistent with our lore, but be revelatory of it.

Oh, and, just now, one of our programmers complained that a Pythonesque object description I wrote turned out to be too long for the UI. It doesn’t take long to do each little thing; but they do all require thought.

In all this, of course, I’m piling up a bit of work for myself. Anything specific to Arthur I’ll have to redo, or replace, for Girl With Needle or the Mad Scotsman. They don’t just have different barks. Anywhere Arthur has a journal entry after an encounter, I’m going to have to rewrite the entry in the other PC’s voice.

This is an ambitious game for its narrative. It would be much easier for me to write generically. The more generic a bark (“Go go go!”), the more often the player can hear it without getting irritated. I’m writing distinctive barks. Hopefully we’ve got enough so they won’t get old. Let me know if they do get old.

And then, there are always the recording sessions and the cutscenes. I can’t tell you what amazing actor I recorded last Thursday, or what role she plays, because it’s all a Big Secret. But the animators are slowly chewing their way through several playthroughs worth of cutscenes. Tuesday and Wednesday I put together a cutscene for the Mad Scotsman’s playthrough; Vincent Schneider’s been storyboarding it since. I also spent a bit of time inserting new dialog in old cutscenes; sometimes there’s a line that doesn’t get recorded, or a brilliant idea that we have after the recording session, and I’ve got to wait until my next session to get it recorded. (Recording with union actors is crucial, but Not Cheap.)

It is a miracle to me that I haven’t fallen behind. Sometimes I wonder if it would be the end of the world if I, you know, left the text of the combat buffs alone; so what if they’re a bit gamey? But I count myself blessed to be in a team where I have the privilege of meddling like that.

Design Team  


I spent all week making a terrain / visuals / foliage pass of around 14 encounters. So they should hopefully look better now :)

I also fixed some bugs and improved gameplay, so they are more fun!


After countless frustrated pre-alpha player reports, someone had to go back to the Garden District houses and make them more “navigation friendly”. And that someone got to be me! It was a bit of a pain, but it’s done, and I hope you guys (and those poor Wastrels) won’t get stuck in narrow corridors / furniture / cramped spaces / debris clusters anymore. So I basically went back to those maps and scaled up a bit the houses, moved furniture to the walls and shrinked the debris, as well as fix some weird collisions on objects. Pretty boring to do, but I hope it’ll go a long way for your gameplay experience in the Garden Districts!

Once that was out of the way, I joined Mike in doing some more encounters! It was a nice change for me after being stuck in a single map (the infamous intro scene) for more than two months. These encounters are specifically for the second island of the Garden District, so they present a bit more challenge, but will also net more interesting and useful rewards, as well as introduce new items and NPCs.

One of the latter are the Sick Wastrels. Thanks to Marc and Camille’s work on status effects, the Sick Wastrels can actually afflict you with a nasty Infection! It’ll reduce your Max Health considerably. How to cure it you say? You can’t… yet! But I’ll get on that next week! :P So here’s a little tease for my new encounters:

  • Pump Fixers: These thirsty Wastrels are desperately trying to repair this water pump without success. You probably won’t be able to quench your thirst, but you still might be able to get something out of it… If you can get past these guys!
  • Mystery Parade: A bunch of Sick Wastrels walking around in a group at night. Do I really need to say you should stay clear of them?
  • Altar of the Yam: This tasty looking Yam looks like is the object of worship of a bunch of crazy Wastrels. Well, Wastrels are pretty much all crazy, but these guys are definitely crazily focused on protecting this Yam, which is even crazier.
  • Unkind Dead: A rotted smelly corpse. I guess it’s been there for a while: mushrooms are growing out of this guy’s face! Ewww… But I bet you’re hungry… Will you take this risk?
  • Hallucinogenic Salad: Great, more crazies! These guys run around in a house, freaking out and beating imaginary beasts. I bet you wonder what got them in this state. How can they spend so much energy without even slowing down?


Oh hi! I hope you people reading this are doing well. This week I was tasked to create a reusable system to make various type of traps. Been fiddling around in the scripts reparenting some things, creating new blueprints and making sure the system is easy to use. You’ll get traps you can trigger from a distance using projectiles, traps that’ll nicely shock you if you try to open doors (a bit like the old handshake shock gag), tesla coils that now fire proper lightning at targets and new pickups to interact with them (mostly disarm tools). Some of those traps are linked to “trap control boxes”. You’ll have two options if you interact with those : “disarm” which disarms every trap linked to them or reverse polarity which switches trap targets to other surrounding NPCs. I’m sure you’ll like to reverse the polarity on tesla coils (now called Spankers) and see it spanking your opponents while you dance around dodging hits. I hope you have a great week-end and wishing you lots of joy for coming week!

Animation Team


Only secret things have I worked on this week! So here's the video of the Vomit and Shock animation I told you about in the last update.

As you can see it's not in game footage, but a preview from the animation software we use, Motionbuilder. A little funny trade secret while I'm here, with nothing new to show: the shake on the 'Shock' animation is actually done by hand! I recorded the movements from my mouse, which I then tweaked and plugged into my animations, on different parts of the body! Poor man motion capture... it's a pretty common feature in 3D software but it's not used that often. But I still prefer that over procedural noise, it gives the movement some spontaneity... Cheers!

Thank you for tuning for another week, have a great weekend everyone and happy Valentine’s day, remember to treat yo'self!



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