Major Arcana: Contest Prototype

When I uploaded this last night, I was totally exhausted. I’m not entirely happy with the game as it currently stands (to put it delicately), and I’d love to shrug it off and say something like “Well, it’s not like I worked that hard at it” – but of course, that would be a complete lie. I’ve actually, effectively, been working two jobs. I work nine to five at my day job, grab dinner in town, then head to the library till closing time. I barely have time to do anything else. And I’ve been doing this all year.

So why do I have so little to show for it?

Well, it’s pretty simple – I totally underestimated how much work was involved in scripting the game. I’d finished the graphics, I’d designed the maps, Josiah had finished the soundtrack, I’d even written most of the dialogue – but I hadn’t put it all together. Doing this took me a lot longer than I thought it would, so while I’ve created a good deal of content, I’ve scripted very little of it.

Putting it together highlighted a lot of problems. In particular, here’s what I wish I had more time to work on:

Gladius as a character: Here’s how the Tarot Cards are laid out: you’ve got the Major Arcana, which are symbolic cards representing big, life changing things, and you’ve got the Minor Arcana, representing small, day to day things. The Minor Arcana is closely related to the regular deck of playing cards most people are familiar with today – there are four suits, in each suit there are ten regular numbered cards, then there are four court cards (the Page, the Knight, the Queen and the King).

In my game, there are four main characters, and each one associates with a suit on the Minor Arcana – Swords, Pentacles, Cups and Wands. Gladius is Swords, the suit that’s usually associated with the intellectual side of life – rational thinking, cold hard logic.

In the demo, I was hoping that Gladius would find himself thrown in this odd situation, not knowing where he is or what’s really happening. Being the kind of guy who he is, he tries to reason everything out, and work out what’s going on. He sees a Magic Light: that presents him with a number of hypothesis to consider. He fights a wolf in the next room: that eliminates one of the possibilities.

Thing is, thanks to my “inane last minute dialogue” (as I put it last night), that doesn’t really come across. Gladius sounds like he’s the shallow second person in an average text adventure.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to approach this problem in the full game, but I wish I didn’t have to rush my approach for this contest version.

The Page dialogue: This whole scene is just awful – it’s about five times longer than it needs to be, and everything that’s said is… I dunno, teeth-grinding-ly atrocious to listen to.

The problem here is really in how I approached the scene when I was writing it – I had an objective to meet. By the end of this exchange, I wanted Gladius to find out where he was, find out who he was talking to, and agree to let him tag along. Problem is, Gladius’s personality actually worked in this scene. Being the highly sceptical guy he is, he wasn’t buying any of that fate crap. He even throws ridicule on the whole concept of the scene as being impossible (the page is locked in a room with a group of wolves? How on earth did that happen?).

I didn’t really mean for Gladius to bring attention to it, but as soon as I’d thought of it I knew it was the kind of thing that he’d ask about, which led to some forced, awkward, throughally detestable dialogue.

I’m going to scrap this scene in the final version and do something completely different.

The battle engine: Well, this is pretty simple really. The framework’s all there, but I didn’t have time to make it work for the demo. I just attached the testing thing I have going on as a proof of concept, really.

The bugs: Of course, loads and loads of brand new bugs surfaced on the last day, and I could only fix so many of them. Some of the more interesting ones you might come across:
– Depending on how many times you’re hit at zero HP, you might find item locations totally randomised. If you appear to be blocked by something you can’t see, try hitting X. Chances are it’s an NPC that’s gotten it’s position mixed up.
– Directions can get permanently mixed up, and I haven’t been able to work out why. In the main room with the four doors, you could (if you’re unlucky, I don’t know why it’s happening) find that you’re forced to face either right or down for the remainder of the game. Ultraweird – there isn’t even a function in the game to lock npc directions.
– You can jump. I probably should have just disabled that. If you do happen to find the jump button, I wouldn’t use it – you could find yourself stuck in a wall or on top of an NPC. (That’s actually been a problem all the way back since I first implemented jumping in the engine a couple of years ago.)
– You can’t die in combat. Oops.

Ok, enough of that. I flipped a coin to decide if I was going to go ahead and upload this. I lost, so here it is.

[Now that the contest is over, I’ve taken down the demo.]

Believe me, it’s not easy presenting something that you’ve worked hard on to an open community like this. It’s even worse when it’s something you’re not happy with. Keep in mind that this is an early prototype, and it will get better.

* 10 Comments

10 Comments so far

  1. Peter on March 20th, 2007

    I liked the game. The story was starting to get interesting when the demo ended. The only issue I found was that sometimes the character would seem to collide with something that was not there. Overall a good job.

  2. Terry on March 20th, 2007

    Yeah, I found that bug just as I was about to upload it, but didn’t have time to fix it – it’s tied into the invincible in battle thing – the engine is deleting NPCs and in the process messing up their handlers.

    Thanks for playing it! Check back in a few weeks though, I’ve have something a lot more fun up then πŸ™‚

  3. Dan on March 21st, 2007

    Congratulations on finishing! πŸ˜€
    I’m downloading it now and I’ll play it after lunch.

  4. Dan on March 22nd, 2007

    Well after lunch turned in tomorrow – but I just played it now – it’s impressive. The music is good and i like the fading effects in combats and how the GUI’s set up (and general look). I tried one of your demos previously but this felt a lot smoother / slicker – but perhaps it’s because I’m playing on a different machine πŸ˜€

  5. Terry on March 22nd, 2007

    Glad it worked well for you πŸ™‚ Thanks for playing it!

    I agree, the music really is good – I was very lucky to come across Josiah when I did. Wait till you hear the rest of his stuff (and check out the boss theme if you haven’t heard it already!)

  6. icecube on March 25th, 2007

    Hmm…working with a veeeery strange keyboard at the moment in the labs…entirely untrustworthy.

    I can totally understand you reservations about the game…of course, I’m not as affected by them as you are. But yeah, I’m really quite impressed by the engine. Music is niiiice as well πŸ™‚ (boss theme is great).

    Anyway. I am looking forward to the next release πŸ™‚

  7. icecube on March 25th, 2007

    and, at least the executable icon of your entry doesn’t look like a scrotal sack πŸ™‚

  8. Terry on March 25th, 2007

    and, at least the executable icon of your entry doesn’t look like a scrotal sack πŸ™‚

    You’re right! I don’t know how I managed to overlook that – I’m putting that one top on the list of priorities for the proper release.

    Right now the list looks something like this:

    1. Make executable icon resemble scrotal sack
    2. Fix the dozens and dozens of other problems with the game

  9. stephen on March 25th, 2007

    (I was referring to the other entry…i think witchsomething, the one with the interminable cut-sequences)

    But you got that joke, right?

  10. Terry on March 25th, 2007

    Well, duh. πŸ™‚

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