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Grindwheel Games

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Well, since you said 'please'. ;)

So, the basic system is this. A new ribbon on the main menu means you will be able to select an Heirloom object to begin the game with. This selection becomes your default, so if you die and start a new game, you'll start with that object. If you don't have one selected, even 'Nothing', then you get a warning to go do that before you can begin a game. Just setting it to 'nothing' means you can start without any issues.

Overall the items give a small bonus, sometimes situational, with a penalty. Plus, since they are items, they take up an inventory slot. The list below will be the default list of items for every game from now on, so you can 'customise' your hunter slightly. Not every item will be useful in every game, but you'll pretty much have to find out which is which through playing. This may mean sticking to something 'safe' like one of the weapons sets, or even playing with nothing for your first round. The Traits system will work in a similar way, but give a permanent bonus/penalty which is a bit more situational. For instance, 'Veteran' means you ignore any skill penalties in combat, but start with less maximum hit points due to all the injuries you have sustained. 'Naive' means you recover lost Skill when you heal yourself back past 50% Stamina, but you lose points of Skill when you drop below 50% Stamina. Etc. I'll run those past you guys when they are written. :)

Anyway, here is the current list of Heirlooms.

Nothing – Not every hunter has access to rare equipment, and some shun these fancy gadgets in order to retain the purity of the hunt. Some have also fallen on hard times, and have sold their beloved equipment in order to live in a style to which they have become accustomed. Which are you?

*Empty Pockets – You gain no bonuses, but also do not give up an equipment slot. Keep reminding yourself that a bowl is most useful when it is empty.

Brutal Hunter Set – Some hunters rely on sheer, raw damage to win the day. This option means your hunter has a wickedly serrated blade and a powerful handgun loaded with flesh-shredding Hunter's Shot rounds. So armed, they can bludgeon down any foe with spectacular overkill.

*Crippling Damage – You deal 1 extra point of damage in combat.
*Overspecialised – You no longer wins drawn combat rounds, automatically losing the round instead.

Precise Hunter Set – Instead of relying on brute force to best their foes, some hunters rely on skill. You are one such hunter, and carry a devilishly sharp rapier and carefully sighted duelling pistol. With these weapons, you can constantly out-class your enemies and land a series of hits that will leave them reeling.

*Rain of Blows – You adds 1 to your dice rolls in combat.
*Overspecialised – You no longer wins drawn combat rounds, automatically losing the round instead.

Witch-Silver Weapons – While enchanted weapons are rare, some hunters do carry them. The swirling inlay of witch-silver on your sword and pistol means that they can deal lasting damage to creatures not of this world. The wounds they cause also fester and seethe, making a mockery of most beast's powers of regeneration.

*Baleful Enchantments – Enemies cannot regenerate, ignore or reduce damage dealt by these weapons.
*Night Terrors – Even the presence of small amounts of witch-silver cause violent nightmares. Despite the protective case you keep them in, your hunter will suffer from these as long as they carry the weapons. You regain no lost Skill when you sleep.

Heraldic Breastplate – Most hunters skip wearing this cumbersome item except when facing particularly deadly foes. It hinders the movement of the wearer, but does result in an additional level of protection that can mean the difference between life and death.

*Hardened Protection – The toughened steel of the breastplate means you have a 50% chance to reduce all damage (including damage sustained outside of combat) by 1, to a minimum of 1.
*Cumbersome – Using this item restricts your movement, meaning you must subtract 1 from your dice roll in combat.

Toughened Leathers – Some hunters choose to add a few extra layers of leather to their gear, as well as brass or steel studs at the shoulders and hips. These precautions help to deflect incoming attack from your blind spots, at the cost of reduced mobility and extra weight.

*Backstab Insurance – The extra protection of the toughened leather means that you cannot take automatic damage in combat. IE – any enemy that inflicts damage 'regardless of the combat result' loses this ability against a hunter with this item.
*Cumbersome – Using this item restricts your movement, meaning you must subtract 1 from your dice roll in combat.

Light Armour – Not every hunter places their faith in thick leather and steel. Hunters who take this option have stripped down their protective layers to the bare minimum. This allows them to keep one step ahead of all but the most ferocious enemies. Of course, should they be caught out, it could spell disaster...

*Swashbuckling Skills – All enemies must reduce their dice roll by 1 in combat against you.
*Glass Cannon – All enemies inflict 1 extra point of damage in combat against you.

Punch Dagger – Some hunters train to use a punch dagger strapped to their pistol hand to aid them in combat. The chance to use such an exotic weapon comes once in a blue moon, but when an opportunity appears the unexpected attack can be deadly.

*Scorpion Stab – If the result of a combat round is a draw, you not only win the round, but deal an additional 4 points of damage.

Beloved Locket – A hunter's life is often lonely. Those lucky enough to have a romantic attachment of some sort tend to carry a keepsake with them wherever they are far from home. No matter how daunting the hunt, they can always use it as a touchstone when they dream of the life they will go back to when it is all over.

*Sweet Dreams, My Love – When you sleep, you regain 1 extra point of skill and 2 extra points of stamina.

Lucky Pocketwatch – While not always a pocketwatch, the logic of this item remains the same. By placing a small, metal object over their heart, the hunter hopes that fate will intervene and block a lethal blow. It happens more often than you think, although usually not more than once for a single person.

*Fate Averted – The first time you would be slain because you lost a round of combat, this item is destroyed instead. Any further damage taken that round will then be applied as normal.
 

lashman

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Well, since you said 'please'. ;)

So, the basic system is this. A new ribbon on the main menu means you will be able to select an Heirloom object to begin the game with. This selection becomes your default, so if you die and start a new game, you'll start with that object. If you don't have one selected, even 'Nothing', then you get a warning to go do that before you can begin a game. Just setting it to 'nothing' means you can start without any issues.

Overall the items give a small bonus, sometimes situational, with a penalty. Plus, since they are items, they take up an inventory slot. The list below will be the default list of items for every game from now on, so you can 'customise' your hunter slightly. Not every item will be useful in every game, but you'll pretty much have to find out which is which through playing. This may mean sticking to something 'safe' like one of the weapons sets, or even playing with nothing for your first round. The Traits system will work in a similar way, but give a permanent bonus/penalty which is a bit more situational. For instance, 'Veteran' means you ignore any skill penalties in combat, but start with less maximum hit points due to all the injuries you have sustained. 'Naive' means you recover lost Skill when you heal yourself back past 50% Stamina, but you lose points of Skill when you drop below 50% Stamina. Etc. I'll run those past you guys when they are written. :)
that sounds AWESOME!!! i'm in! :D
 
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Good evening. So, I just posted the big announcement I was talking about on the website and social media. Here is a copy below.

Good morning! Over the weekend I finished the plug in and QA pass for The Hunter's Journals - Red Ripper. This puts me in a great position to begin work on editing, voice over and art in 2020. For reference, Blissful Ignorance was roughly 50% written this time last year, and I was finishing off the Vile Philosophy voice over at the same time. So we really are steaming ahead on book 4 of the series!

I am also proud to announce that I have taken a position at Quarter Circle Games (https://www.qcgames.co.uk/ ). While I cannot go into exactly what I am doing, I have joined this exciting first-person horror project as a game designer on Once Upon a Time in Roswell. Please check out the website and Steam store page ( ) for more details.

What does this mean for Red Ripper? As has been noted previously, The Hunter's Journals is a series I built to be worked on outside of my regular hours. And, as Quarter Circle Games are fine with me publishing my own work as a side project, there is likely to be little to no impact on a delivery date of 2020 for book 4. Especially given that we are so far ahead in development at this point! So overall this is very much a win-win situation for fans of the series so far.

Have a great week, and I will let you all know when Red Ripper hits editing!

As I have said here, I see no issues with getting Red Ripper out of the door next year. :) This could also be a good way to launch a freelance career, which would definitely help fund the games without having to deal with a lot of the industry's nonsense. Anyway, we'll see how it works out!
 

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Sorry for the delay in replying. As you can imagine work is taking up a lot of my time. I'll run the idea of putting a thread on here past my boss, as I don't know exactly what the marketing and publishing strategy is. He might want to start and manage the thread himself after all!

In the meantime, I thought i would run the current ideas for the Traits past you guys to see what you thought. This will not be the final wording/balance, but just an idea so you know what I am currently planning.

1 - Nothing. As with heirlooms, you gain no positive or negative modifiers.

2 - Veteran. You start with less Maximum Stamina due to being a bit beaten up and dented, but your wealth of experience means you cannot have your Skill reduced in combat.

3 - Duellist. If your enemy has a higher Skill than you, your skill is counted as being equal when calculating your combat scores. However, your fragile ego means that if somebody with lower skill than you lands a blow (not counting auto damage) then you lose the above bonus for the rest of the game.

4 - Medical Training. Thanks to spending countless hours patching people together in hospitals or on the battlefield you have a 50% chance to not use up a Medical Supply when you heal yourself. Unfortunately, due to the horrors you have seen, you need to use the morphine contained within a kit (with the 50% chance to not deplete it) when you sleep or you lose 1 Skill.

5 - Naive.
As an optimist, you will recover lost points of Skill when you heal yourself past 50% Stamina because you believe a few bandages will make things better. Sadly, if you are reduced to less than 50% Stamina, you will lose Skill as a result.

6 - Abomination. There is a terrible secret in your family's bloodline. You have a 50% chance to recover lost Stamina in combat when you attack a foe, and if you are at full Stamina will recover lost Skill instead. However, your twisted body means you start with reduced Maximum Skill and Stamina totals.

7 - New Money.
Your family has blown quite a lot of money to make themselves appear to have a respected heritage. This means you begin the game with another randomly determined heirloom, but only 15 Gold.

8 - Paragon. You embody the ideals of the UIC in all respects and are celebrated near and far. You add +2 to your dice rolls in combat and start with 30 Gold. However, the pressure of expectations have led you to battle demons like drink and depression. You start the game with D6 lost points of Skill which must be recovered through gameplay.

9 - Zealot. You gain +1 to hit and +1 damage against undead and Infernal enemies. However, since you try to take human foes alive to convert them, you suffer -1 to hit against them. And, as Externals are so utterly alien to your religious beliefs, you suffer -2 to hit against them as well.

10 - Last Scion. Your noble line ends with you, thanks to some terrible disaster. Your grim determination means that you have a chance to ignore Skill loss in game, but your secret longing for death means you have a chance to take extra damage in and out of combat.

As I have said, this is an early draft and I wanted to get your opinions. :) Let me know what you think!
 

lashman

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Sorry for the delay in replying. As you can imagine work is taking up a lot of my time. I'll run the idea of putting a thread on here past my boss, as I don't know exactly what the marketing and publishing strategy is. He might want to start and manage the thread himself after all!
that would also work, sure :) and yeah, no rush

As I have said, this is an early draft and I wanted to get your opinions. :) Let me know what you think!
yup, sounds good to me! :thumbsupblob:
 
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Well that was a bit of a shock!

I forgot that the Steam sale started today. :) But thankfully they sent me an email letting me know, and I do my nightly checks for errors/sales as part of my usual routine. So now we'll see if anyone feels like a scary story for Christmas!

If you have not bought any of the games so far, now is a good time to do so, as they will be part of whatever promotion Steam is running this year. If you have already bought a copy, poke your friends to buy one with their Christmas money! :D

As a side note, with work and the possibility of an upcoming move to be closer to Quarter Circle's studios (or to Wales, depending on what happens) I have not had a chance to set up the whole 'monthly story' poll. Instead I will work on three connected stories which will be posted Christmas eve on the Steam pages as well as here. There will not be an accompanying pictures to go with them as this will detail unique creatures not addressed in any of the games, but I hope you enjoy them.

Anyway, have a good weekend everyone! I will post when the stories are ready or if there is another announcement, whichever happens first. :)
 
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Happy Christmas eve!

As I have said earlier, I plan on releasing some new stories, with one section per game, through the day. The first part is below. On Steam I have decided to couple this with releasing the artwork of Liliana, the hunter my friend commissioned fan art of. This seems like a good way to tie the updates to the stories, as well as get the art out there for people to enjoy. :) In any case, the first section (which will be paired with Pale Harbour) is as follows:

A Winter Tale Part 1 – The Good Doctor

“Please, take a seat,” Doctor Louis said quietly, guiding the poor waif towards a padded chair. His study was dark, but the servants had built up the fire before retiring for the night. It cast a flickering glow across the woman's pinched, pale features as the doctor helped her to settle by the crackling logs. He tossed a few more pieces of wood onto the blaze to help warm the room, and by extension, the stray he had chanced upon.

He had been returning from his nightly journey to the temple of the Urizen – for Doctor Lewis was a devout and pious man – when he had seen the woman stumble out of an alley. She was wearing little more than rags despite the flurries of snow in the air. He had immediately thrown his overcoat around her thin shoulders and guided her to his home.

For many people this would have looked deeply suspicious, even scandalous. But doctor Lewis was known to be a good man. He was said to have a pocket of half-pennies to hand to orphans he encountered on his walks, and worked with the poor and destitute for little more than their tearful gratitude. Despite this altruism his personal finances were substantial, allowing him to afford the modest house he had led the woman to. Indeed, when a constable had encountered him and the shivering lass, he helped to lead her to the doctor's front door, and left satisfied that she was in good hands.

Having finished banking the fire, the good doctor checked his unexpected patient. She was unresponsive to his probing questions, and her flesh was still cold to the touch. She was human, and free from mutation, which pleased him greatly. There were deep cuts on her feet, and signs that she had been recently bound at the wrists and ankles. He tutted under his breath and stepped back.

The woman gazed into the distance, barely blinking. He snapped his fingers by her ear, and she did not even flinch at the sudden noise.

“Quite a mystery, aren't you,” he muttered to himself. He patted the woman on the shoulder and left to gather his tools. He was hopeful that the fire would warm her up enough to wake her from the trance. He was also thankful that the gods had seen fit to put her in his way on the night his servants would not be home. These things reminded him that humble prayers and clean living led to such rewards.

Instead of heading to his treatment room, Lewis walked to his study. The lock opened with a click as he slipped inside. He checked the cabinet beside his desk, and found it securely closed. Even the small thread he placed in the hinges was still where it had been left, so nobody had accessed it in his absence. His hands trembled slightly as he unlocked the door and took out his instruments.

Doctor Lewis hated the term 'Broadsheet Killer'. It made it sound like his work was something base and tawdry. To him, it was similar to comparing his medical practice with some back-alley sawbones. No; he had a mission from the Urizen. A mission of dire importance. Hadn't He told him so, in dreams and waking visions? Hadn't he seen the face of the UIC's stern god in feverish opium dreams?

He would save this poor soul this night. A woman nobody knew of, who didn't react even to the pain of her lacerated feet. He would make her into a work of art, like all his other poor, poor girls. He felt the fever in his blood as he looked over the gleaming, silver-edged scalpels inside his secret case. Surely her appearance and behaviour showed this to be a miracle? Could anyone deny a hard-working man like himself these small pleasures?

As he snapped the clasp on the case shut, and reached for the stained leather apron at the back of the cabinet, he heard a crash from the living room. The screaming began a moment later.
 
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right back at ya! :)

and thanks for the update ... that sounds really really cool! :D

:wd_heart:
No worries! Here's part two for you. :) I was torn between this option and something less fire-related, but it has been cold here for a few days so I guess keeping very warm has been in the forefront of my mind!

A Winter Tale Part 2 – An Open Fire

Warmth and flickering light brought the woman back from the dark place her mind had retreated to. She couldn't yet recall her name, and still felt like a stranger in her own skin. But she began to perceive the world around her in more than the vague, ghostly manner she had been trapped in until now. Her head turned, slightly, and she looked directly into the flames.

She recalled fire. There was something she remembered seeing come out of a great cloud of multi-coloured sparks. The men, the ones with her, had screamed its name in a language which was not language. She had screamed too. The inferno had reached for her with wings of white-hot iron, which was when the hunter had come.

A stabbing anger in her chest made the woman's doll-like expression twist into a scowl for a moment. She was torn. On the one hand, the hunter had saved her from the creature of flames (hadn't she?), but at the same time she hated her. She felt, somehow, that the hunter's interference had stopped something important. Some greatness for which she believed she was destined. She thought she remembered embers being drawn into her nose and mouth, then stumbling away as the chains holding her were shattered with a slash of the hunter's sweeping blade.

As she watched vacantly, the fire in the grate began to give off thick plumes of smoke. These twisted together like ropes and drew towards the woman in a way she thought might have been unnatural. But then again she remembered so little about herself and the world around her. Her mind felt like an old book of prayers she had once tossed into a fire just to watch it burn. Little pieces of her personality flared brightly in the darkness of her skull, and then were reduced to drifting ashes in the void.

The memory of the burning book was replaced with one of another tome. It was open and massive, inscribed with names in hundreds of hands over the centuries it had existed. It was a covenant, she recalled. Had she signed it? Had she run from it? She could not remember. The woman found that she no longer cared either way, and the memory became ash. As did her hair, which smouldered and crumbled from her head as the temperature in the room spiked.

She had almost died in the cold, she recalled. The spark of life within her body smothered in the dirty snow. The doctor's coat ignited around her shoulders as her eyes boiled in the sockets. Stumbling out of her home, she had steamed like a boiling kettle, but moment by moment the warmth had retreated deep into her chest to escape the lethal touch of the cold, the cutting bite of the winds. She had run for sanctuary, then trudged, and finally just stumbled blindly forward. She hadn't even the wit to get into shelter. But now she was here, by a roaring fire which overflowed the stone hearth in her presence. Foot-long tongues of flame began to spread over the wooden mantle and up the wall.

Something inside the smouldering woman uncurled. The fire in her memories burned brighter with every second. Soon she felt less like a person and more like a delicate eggshell containing a raging bonfire. A great heat twisted in the hollow cave of her body, roasting the meat from the inside out. Her bones blackened and cracked, her viscera crumbled to cinders. But still she lived. Or, more accurately, something lived inside what was left of her. Just a spark, but enough to burn nations.

The last thing the woman recalled before she was gone, burned away, was a memory of a stern-faced man telling her that this was her family's legacy. To burn bright to bridge the gap between this world and her blazing angel's plane of existence. She remembered the exquisite pleasure of knowing her life had meaning. She remembered seeing the barbed and flaming being who's secret her family had carried within them. She remembered nothing more as what was left of her ignited.

The charred thing which used to be the woman stood, knocking over the flaming chair with a casual swipe of its blazing claws, and screamed.
 
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Grindwheel Games

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toasty :p

seriously, though - i looooove that ... i always enjoy reading all that stuff when you post it in here ... thank you! :)
No worries! This is why I was thinking of maybe having monthly updates to the world for those people interested in reading about it. :)

Anyway, here is the third and final part!

A Winter Tale Part 3 – Dashing Through the Snow

The hunter barrelled as fast as she could through the dark night, following the trail of footprints in the dirty snow. The few people on the streets who saw her grim figure dived aside as she ran. A hunter in a hurry was not something anyone wished to tangle with, especially one as bloody and ragged as she was at that moment.

Liliana cursed her inattention. While investigating a report of a missing servant, she had uncovered an External cult lurking behind the facade of a noble family. She had arrived just in time to stop the madmen from summoning their god, freeing what she assumed was an unwilling victim. Then, as she had chased down the last of the cultists, she had seen the portrait of the woman to be sacrificed hanging in a hallway. She was no dupe or kidnapped street-walker, but a member of the cursed bloodline!

She had tracked the woman through the snow, and seen her stumbling footprints joined by another set. When she had found a constable patrolling the area, and breathlessly asked after the cultist, he had told her about escorting a strange woman in the company of doctor Lewis to his home a few streets away. With no time to lose, she had told him to alert the authorities to a possible External incursion, and sprinted away.

As she approached the front door of the doctor's house, she heard a hideous scream, and the window of one of the ground floor rooms blew out in a shower of glass. Heat turned the snow for several paces to steam, and Liliana was forced to shield her face from the blast. A blazing figure, barely human in outline, was staggering around the room, setting everything it touched alight with multi-coloured flames.

With no other option, Liliana began to fire her pistol at the thing, driving it away from the ragged hole in the wall. Then she leapt through the ruined window and into the inferno. She had to place her trust in the stout, green leather overcoat she wore to keep the fire from catching her, if only for a few moments. Ignoring the pain of her previous injuries, she lashed out at the flaming monster.

It staggered and wailed, seeming to be getting stronger the more the room around it burned. Arms of whipping fire reached out at the hunter, singing her hair. All of a sudden, the door to the chamber opened, and a middle-aged man in a stained leather apron stumbled inside. Liliana assumed he must be the doctor, or possible a household servant. He was carrying a bucket of water, and gawped at the scene which greeted him.

Before she could shout a warning, the beast slid past her, and sank blazing claws into the man's belly. He had a moment before they ignited him from the inside, and in that precious second, he threw the contents of the bucket directly into the monster's face.

Even as the interloper's body crumbled into glowing cinders, the creature staggered, whining and barking out in what Liliana could only hope was pain. The flames on its upper body had been partially extinguished, leaving behind blackened iron plates and blades, twisted and welded together into a mockery of the human form. Even as they began to glow with heat once more, and the flames crept over them, Liliana struck.

Her blade bit deeply into a seam along the thing's 'skull', causing it to part with a crunch. When the fire reached this spot it spurted out like a fountain of sparks instead of catching fully like it had before. The beast wailed, clawing at the wound. The flames around it flickered again as it inadvertently stumbled into the chilling wind sweeping through the window. Liliana took a short run up, then kicked the beast hard enough to send it tumbling out of the shattered window into the freezing night.

The crowd which had gathered to investigate the disturbance screamed and fled as the External crunched into the cobbles. It writhed and howled, before pulling itself upright and blazing brightly once more. Pausing to slide a Hunter's Shot round into her smoking pistol, Liliana leapt back into the fray.
 
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Happy new year from Grindwheel Games!

So it has been an eventful 2019. I started the year in Krakow, moved back to the UK when my position was made redundant, set up my own company, released three games, completed my fourth book, and then started my freelance work with Quarter Circle Games. All of the projects I have released have been relatively successful and are slowly growing in popularity as time goes on. Compared to some of the high-profile gaming disasters of 2019, Grindwheel Games has had a lot of success, all without working anyone to the bone or charging premium prices for broken content!

2020 is looking a little more sedate by comparison right now. With Red Ripper written and ready for editing, I should be able to get it completed alongside my regular job, and write Tattered Sails to boot. I have already begun designing the Traits system and laying out the critical path of that title, so we're looking good to have it in the same place as Red Ripper by the end of this year. And, as always, any spare time in the schedule will go towards building the Vile Philosophy maze side game.

In any case I look forward to keeping you all appraised of progress as the year rolls on. Happy new year and hope you all had a great holiday period!
 

lashman

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Happy new year from Grindwheel Games!
and happy new year to you too! :D

So it has been an eventful 2019. I started the year in Krakow, moved back to the UK when my position was made redundant, set up my own company, released three games, completed my fourth book, and then started my freelance work with Quarter Circle Games. All of the projects I have released have been relatively successful and are slowly growing in popularity as time goes on. Compared to some of the high-profile gaming disasters of 2019, Grindwheel Games has had a lot of success, all without working anyone to the bone or charging premium prices for broken content!
great news all around ... congrats! :)

:wd_heart:
 
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So, got a chunk of work done this evening, including sending the unlockable content away to the editors and starting book 5 - Tattered Sails. I thought I would share the blurb with you as a little teaser of next year's release. ;)

A horror lurks beneath the earth. Terror rises from the past. A treasure hunter asks you to watch over his seemingly cursed archaeological dig. What nightmares lie beneath the softly whispering grasses of Dry River, and will YOU be able to hurl them back from whence they came?
 

lashman

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So, got a chunk of work done this evening, including sending the unlockable content away to the editors and starting book 5 - Tattered Sails. I thought I would share the blurb with you as a little teaser of next year's release. ;)
fucking hell ... you're a goddamn machine! :D

love the blurb too! can't wait to know more :cat-heart-blob:
 
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love the blurb too! can't wait to know more :cat-heart-blob:
Well, sadly you'll have to wait until next year for this one. But, don't worry, with just editing, art, music and VO to go on Red Ripper, we're looking good for that to come out this year. It is still a little confusing to me which book is where, as last year I was basically working on three at once. Hopefully this year will let me test the pipeline for one release at a time.
 

lashman

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Well, sadly you'll have to wait until next year for this one. But, don't worry, with just editing, art, music and VO to go on Red Ripper, we're looking good for that to come out this year. It is still a little confusing to me which book is where, as last year I was basically working on three at once. Hopefully this year will let me test the pipeline for one release at a time.
that's ok ... i can wait :) i already know it's gonna be great! :D
 
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Good evening!

Just sending out a quick update with a couple of milestones we have passed as of this weekend. Firstly, Red Ripper has had its unlockable content edited and plugged into the PC and tablet builds. The main body of the text has also been sent into editing now, and should be back with me in a few weeks.

And, as of today, the critical path for Tattered Sails is completed! It is an unusual process to see these stories evolve as I write them, moving from points I made notes on years ago to the final version. Red Ripper, for instance, has turned out to be a gruelling race against time that will leave players feeling run ragged, while Tattered Sails has ended up a more investigative and slow-burning dose of horror.

As usual, I will keep people updated when there is more news. I hope you all had a good weekend!
 

lashman

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Good evening!

Just sending out a quick update with a couple of milestones we have passed as of this weekend. Firstly, Red Ripper has had its unlockable content edited and plugged into the PC and tablet builds. The main body of the text has also been sent into editing now, and should be back with me in a few weeks.

And, as of today, the critical path for Tattered Sails is completed! It is an unusual process to see these stories evolve as I write them, moving from points I made notes on years ago to the final version. Red Ripper, for instance, has turned out to be a gruelling race against time that will leave players feeling run ragged, while Tattered Sails has ended up a more investigative and slow-burning dose of horror.

As usual, I will keep people updated when there is more news. I hope you all had a good weekend!
even more good news then ... splendid! :)

i'm so happy everything is going according to plan :D
 
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Good evening! After another weekend of work, I have plugged in a number of engine changes to Tattered Sails. The biggest is the Trait's system. I will wait until the wording on that is a little more polished before putting the final results here, but the mechanics are plugged in and working. They are basically the same as the descriptions posted previously, so no huge shocks.

I hope that Red Ripper should be with me in a week or two, although I am also going to be moving flats next week so I could miss it by a day or so while my internet gets swapped over. But, in the meantime, I was wondering if people would like to hear about the pipeline and systems I am using to develop the games. I don't know if this would be of help to any other developers on here, especially those developing text-based or visual novel style games. If it can help or inspire anyone else then I am more than willing to share!
 

lashman

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But, in the meantime, I was wondering if people would like to hear about the pipeline and systems I am using to develop the games. I don't know if this would be of help to any other developers on here, especially those developing text-based or visual novel style games. If it can help or inspire anyone else then I am more than willing to share!
omg, yes please!!! :D i'd love to know more

(and you can post it in the gamedev thread as well if you want)
 

EdwardTivrusky

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Grindwheel Games If you have the time, DO IT!
I'm sure people would love to know what goes on behind the curtains of a game and i don't think anyone would mind if you posted them here and in the GameDev thread. Several people on MC have started dabbling their toes in that thread so feel free to enlighten and inspire!

Thanks for posting your thoughts and ideas here, i really enjoy reading about what you and the team are working on, thinking about and experimenting with.
 
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Ok then! I will start adding the pieces depending on my schedule, but I will try to (at least) cover a section of the process each week. Hope everyone had a good weekend, and I will keep you guys updated on Red Ripper and Tattered Sails as things progress.
 

lashman

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Ok then! I will start adding the pieces depending on my schedule, but I will try to (at least) cover a section of the process each week. Hope everyone had a good weekend, and I will keep you guys updated on Red Ripper and Tattered Sails as things progress.
awesome ... can't wait! :D
 
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EdwardTivrusky

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Don't forget to add links and reference your posts in this thread too. You've written a ton of interesting posts here that would be relevant as examples of steps and systems you had to take from idea to implementation. It would help ease the workload as i know you're busy as hell these days.
 
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Good evening! Just a quick update for the night. The move went well and (obviously) I have my internet back. Tattered Sails was paused while the move happened, but I have also got Red Ripper back from editing. I spent a good chunk of the day working on getting all the changes sorted and can start plugging it in tomorrow. I have a rough plan in my head for how to do the pipeline/dev diary discussion, but I am absolutely shattered right now. I will try and make a start on that asap. :)
 

lashman

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Good evening! Just a quick update for the night. The move went well and (obviously) I have my internet back. Tattered Sails was paused while the move happened, but I have also got Red Ripper back from editing. I spent a good chunk of the day working on getting all the changes sorted and can start plugging it in tomorrow. I have a rough plan in my head for how to do the pipeline/dev diary discussion, but I am absolutely shattered right now. I will try and make a start on that asap. :)
in other words - great news all around! :)
 
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Ok, so it has been another long day. I'm going to start posting about the pipeline tonight and hopefully add to it over the next few weeks until we're done. I'll also post a version of this message into the other thread and direct people back here with a quick explanation as to what I am doing.

In brief, the method I use to design the games is as follows:

  • Concept
  • Update
  • Development
  • Initial Edit/QA
  • External Editing
  • Art and Music
  • External QA
  • Final Tests and Polish

I'll cover Concept today, as there is a lot of backstory to the project as a whole in that subject.

Concept

Core Concept


The overall design of the games came from a number of factors within the games industry. When I started looking to leave Jagex back in 2015/2016, I found that many of the companies I applied to considered the previous 11 years of development and design work to not exist or not count on various levels. For development this was pretty obvious, as Jagex uses an internal, home-brew language. So if I applied as a Unity developer they just want 'you have no published Unity experience, sorry'. When it came to design it was a little more baffling, as I had people tell me everything from 'you have no design experience because the game you worked on was launched before you started working there' to 'you have too much design experience for MMORPG's to work on our product'.

One of the other issues was that at this time a lot of companies were focused heavily on yearly releases. So to them, having 11 years working on an MMORPG was 1 game in 11 years. And they wanted people who had worked on one game per year (or as close as possible), as that was what they expected me to do when I was with them.

I started working with Carlos on plans to deal with this. In the end, between our schedules and after some experiments with larger projects, we decided that we needed something which could be developed while we both worked our regular jobs, and could preferably see one release per year as part of a series. It also needed to be developed on a tight budget because at this point my wages had been frozen for about five years, so I had balls-all money to put into the project. This meant that I was going to try and do as much as I could, barring the art and music.

We had toyed with the idea of visual novels in the past, and I had also tried to get a series of simple Runescape adventures for tablet up and running. It made the most sense to me at that stage to try and build a simple, modular engine into which I could insert a new story and artwork to ensure I hit a yearly deadline. Again, I needed to be able to show both the coding, story and system design elements to help me get work elsewhere.

Thankfully I ended up working for Sperasoft. Not only did they have a far less toxic environment than Jagex but they also paid well. This was why I was able to upgrade the art from a black and white imitation of the old Fighting Fantasy books to colour, but also speed up the editing process by hiring an external editor. Until then, editing was being done by the testers whenever they had time, so it was slow going!

This resulted in the product as it stands. Something which can be worked on alongside a regular 9-to-5 job in the games industry with a release per year, while being developed with a limited budget in mind. I should also note that it is also something I take pride in, and am very happy to have my name attached to. There have been a lot of people asset-flipping or spamming things onto Steam to pad their CV, but I and the rest of the team wouldn't budge on quality.

Further Concepts

Once the core design of the game and the engine was laid out, I worked on the stories I wanted to plug into it. Some of these were adventure ideas for pen-and-paper games I never got around to running. Pale Harbour was, for instance, going to be an introductory game to a steampunk horror campaign using the Savage Worlds system. Others sprang from projects I worked on while learning Unity. The Vile Philosophers were from a larger project initially. Specifically a text-based adventure game with elements like random dungeons, quests, multiple cities you could visit, and a plan to add new content over time.

Yet more have sprung up as a result of working on the games and trying to flesh out the world and its rules. Red Ripper, for instance, takes place in the Sunlight Alliance. I made a note in the first game that this is a theocratic society, and while working on other things fleshed out exactly what form this took. This then built into the book which will be released later this year.

Overall I generally try to make sure the story has a logical plot which goes from a start to a suitably epic climax. As will be discussed in the Development section, a lot of this is in my mind and expands as I write it all out. Side paths get added at this point too, but overall I try to keep to that core A leads to B leads to C format.

A lot of the time I start with the villains of the piece, often the final boss. From there I work out how to move the player from an initial starting point to this climax. Having run a lot of Call of Cthulhu and other RPG's, I use this experience to create a core storyline to follow where possible. For example, with Pale Harbour, I had started with the idea of the players having the face off against what at first looked like plant monsters until they were killed and bones were discovered inside. Then I started asking myself 'who put them there?' 'How did this work?'

The initial version of events had nothing to do with Externals. It was, instead, being controlled by a necromancer who was using the dead slain off the coast to build an army and enhancing them using his corrupted druid magic. However, as I worked on the concept in my head, I decided to add a scene where the player encountered villagers who had gone mad or fallen to the necromancer's power and decided to a) infect themselves with seaweed and b) offer sacrifices to the skeletons. The idea of a religious following trying to spread the plague seemed to me a stronger theme, and so I changed the sequence of events to the one in the final version.

Anyway, I hope that has been of some help and I should be able to answer questions on my games if you have any. :)
 
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Good evening all!

Last week I managed to get the final testing stages for the Red Ripper script finished. I want to have a few more passes to make sure the balance feels right. At the moment it is pretty hard. Like, Deathtrap Dungeon hard. I like this, and want to keep that feeling, as I have mentioned before that I want the player to feel ragged at the end, regardless of difficulty. But I just want to give it a couple more runs to make sure it is on the right side of that curve.

Anyway, I have passed it on to the artist and voice actors today, and will be looking into contacting Cryo Chamber. With any luck we should be done well before October. I would launch it early, but I think I would rather keep trying for a Halloween release if that is possible.

So, with that all covered, here is then ext part of the dev diary/pipeline discussion. :)

Updates

The first version of the game engine was as robust and simple as I could make it. I wanted to have something which worked, but was open to iterative improvement. Making a super-fancy system was possible but would delay development outside of the year, as every day I was working on messing with the engine was a day I was not writing the story or plugging it in.

So, in the first game, everything was 'on the page' so to speak. If there was an enemy, for example, then the page script would have a boolean saying that this was the case, and fields for the name and stats of the enemy. This was obviously very clunky and meant that even if an enemy was not present the page data still had these fields. It also meant that I was limited in the number of special effects which could happen during combat, as each of these would be a boolean included on every page. That's why there is only one 'boss mechanic' in Pale Harbour.

I decided this was something which needed to be addressed first, so I split everything related to npc's off into enemy data prefabs. I kept the boolean to say that there was a fight on the page, but then just had an entry for the enemy data scrip, and created new enemies as needed. This also meant I could expand the number of unique effects in combat, as all of that was kept neatly in the enemy data prefab.

There were a number of other mechanics which I have done this with at the start of each game. Shops, for instance, were on the page, and have been moved off to prefabs. Other mechanics have been streamlined when I have had time, such as the mechanism by which choices affect the game down the line. These 'story triggers' used to be contained in the story wrapper which holds all of the game pages, and were broken up into individual blocks of ints and game object links.

For Red Ripper and Tattered Sails I have also added two new core game mechanics which I have been planning for a while. In Red Ripper you will be able to customise your hunter's equipment using the Heirloom system. This will allow you to sacrifice a slot in your inventory for a weapon, set of armour, or other item. These all come with positives and negatives, such as armour which blocks automatic damage but gives you a -1 to hit in combat. Tattered Sails does the same, but with Traits. These are bonuses which are always on, but usually only trigger under specific circumstances. For example your hunter could be a Veteran, meaning they start the game with less maximum health, but they do not take Skill penalties in combat.

One of the core things that I use to drive this is considering the new mechanics as I am writing the game. The addition of timed fights came because I thought that adding this as a mechanic to make the fight with Aunt Flay in Vile Philosophy would add some urgency to the scene. By contrast, the mechanics related to only being able to take one of a certain item in Blissful Ignorance was to allow for a very specific outcome if you tried to use them during certain points of the game.

Overall though, the core mentality behind these changes is to make the game more modular where possible. So, for example, enemies were very rigid and could not be easily modified and personalised under the old system. So I cut that chunk away, made it modular, and plugged it back in. The same went for shops, triggers, pointer adjustment, giving and taking items, stamina and skill adjustment, etc. Some things are unique to each game, such as specific boss mechanics. When these come up, I always make sure to comment them with the line 'Temp for this game' so that when I build the next title I can hunt down these entries and remove them as needed. But, where possible, if I use a mechanic once and it is simple enough, then it gets added to the core engine for use later.

So, that's today's diary! I hope people found it useful, and as always please ask me any questions. I have a lot of things to do tomorrow to make the flat a bit more tidy so I may not get a chance to discuss development, which is a pretty hefty subject, but if I don't tackle it this week I should be able to post next weekend.
 
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Ok, so I had a long day, but I will try and make a coherent post about development. :) Here goes!

Development

Pale Harbour was unique in that it was being designed and developed, as well as having the story written, all at the same time. Now the engine is in place, I just need to focus on core improvements, and plugging in a new story. The way I do that is as follows:

First, I write the core 'perfect' route. The actual perfection of this route can change as I add side missions, but ultimately a player going by this route they will arrive at the perfect ending with the least danger possible. As I do this I will leave myself various cues and hints as to what is going to be down the side routes, but usually I will stick to the main game progression. Once I hit the end of the perfect route I will add in all the deaths that could be encountered in combat, meaning that when it comes to VO and editing, the poor people will be reading a victory condition, and then 10-12 violent, gory ends!

Next, I will plug in the core path. This is so that I can more easily go through it and see where the side routes are. I also take this time to go over each page, do a basic edit if I notice a lot of repetition, errors, plot holes caused by something which came up later, etc.

With the core path done I start writing everything else. This involves starting the new build, going along the core path until I find a page which should branch, then writing out these entries (and any branches that they cause themselves). Once everything is in place, I go back in and turn to the next page. This does take a while, but ensues that I have made enough branches to keep things interesting and covered all the side points as best as I can. Usually it is at this stage I also notice if there are too many dead ends at certain points. For instance, in Pale Harbour jumping to the wooden ship caused the player to die rather than open an additional area. That meant that at that stage you were faced with three options - die, die or continue.

As the project is designed to be completed alongside regular work, the usual schedule is to create new content Monday to Friday and plug it in on the weekends. That means I don't get too far ahead of myself, and as i create the enemies, items and triggers as they appear in the book, it also means that I can test them to make sure any new mechanics work as expected. When I hit the end of the story I will plug everything that remains in, and add things like any missing deaths, 'you have already done that's and so on.

Between completing the core story and finishing the script I will also sit down and write the first draft of the unlockable content. By the time the game is written I should have a better idea of the lore I want to give the players as they progress. And, as a result, what easter eggs to put in at the end of the script. Pale Harbour is a bit of an exception, but from Vile Philosophy onward, these have followed the format of:

One of the Easy lores will change the name of an enemy in game to represent something which you now know. IE - the Harrows' Gate Beast has a more appropriate name when you know how and why it was created.

One of the Intermediate Lores will prevent an instant death situation near the end of the game. So in Blissful Ignorance you can avoid a death when dealing with a certain Infernal.

And finally, one of the Hard lores will unlock an alternate ending. This could be slightly easier, or it could simply skip a stage of combat. I won't give away one of these for those who have not found them already. ;)

With these written, the game is essentially complete. Following this formula I will have a complete script, all new mechanics covered in it have been added, all the story triggers have been implemented, and the content has been given an initial pass for errors. That means it is ready for the next step, which I will cover next weekend!
 
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thanks for all the great write ups ... i always like reading your update posts! :)

:wd_heart:
It's nice to have a bit of time to write them! Completing Red Ripper's development before the end of last year has made things a lot more relaxed so far. Admittedly last year I was juggling three games at one point, but thankfully I was flying solo and had all week to work on them or it would have been pretty frantic!
 
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lashman

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It's nice to have a bit of time to write them! Completing Red Ripper's development before the end of last year has made things a lot more relaxed so far. Admittedly last year I was juggling three games at one point, but thankfully I was flying solo and had all week to work on them or it would have been pretty frantic!
that's good to hear :)
 
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Good evening! My machine is chewing its own head off as it tries to install an update, which was why there was no post yesterday. It is still flailing a bit at the moment, but hopefully will stay alive long enough for me to send one out. :)

Initial Edit/QA

As I mentioned during the Development post, when I put each page into the game I give it a quick check to make sure it seems fine. I also test them to make sure they seem to be pointing in the right direction, as I walk through the entries to be sure that I have covered all the planned side paths. But, once this is done, I give it a more detailed edit, as well as make absolutely sure everything goes where it need to.

I created a script which I exported as a Unity asset for this. At this stage I import it, and let it run. It takes all of the pages in the game, and outputs a text file which contains all of the information about where each page points. This includes where it will point if triggers have been applied, as well as if the player has specific items, money, etc. This does not contain the text of the pages, just all of the ways to get out of that page currently.

I print this file out, usually resulting in a hefty stack of pages! I then put a circle next to 'Entry 1' and check its links. To do this, I load up the game, and check each ribbon. If the ribbon leads me to the right page then I put a circle next to the entry as it appears in the document. So if 'Check your notes' leads to Entry 2, I find Entry 2 in the document and put the circle next to that. If a link is broken, I will go back to the master script, find where it should be pointing, and correct it. I then update the printed file to match. If a link will only work if a trigger has been activated, I will do this via the back end, as I am doing all of these checks in Unity. I then save and reload to make sure things are as they should be. The same goes for if I need to check a death. I just set my stamina to 0, reload, and try the fight again.

Once I am happy that a link is valid, I cross it out. Once all of the links under an entry have been crossed out, I go in and check the text. I do this in the editor so that I can make sure it is not overflowing the page. I should have picked up everything major when the page was entered during development, but there are always little mistakes to find! When I am satisfied that the page is ready, I put a tick into the circle next to the entry, and then go looking for the next circle in the document.

Nowadays, this should lead me through the printed file almost completely chronologically. After all, at this point page 1 points to page 2, and might also point to 200 and 201. So by the time I have made it through the perfect path, all of the entries to the side paths will have been circled. Then, by following these paths, I will end up back at entries which have already been checked. So, for example, page 1 leads to page 2 and 200. Pages 2 and 200 both point to 3. By following this method I will have checked 1, 2 and 3, and when I get to 200 I will find it has a circle, showing it can be reached, and when I check its links I go back to 3 and see that it has a ticked circle to prove it has been checked.

This does take a chunk of time, but ensures that every page in the game can be reached. If I find a page which has not been circled, then it cannot be reached in game, and that needs checking.

I would like to point out that the first time I did this I had shuffled the pages around. I make sure to keep that to later in the process, as when it came to testing things the circles were all over the place! So page 1 lead to 80, 500 and 42, for instance, and they all led to random number in turn. I had to keep going back to the start of the printouts and hunting for the circles. Waiting until after this has been done saves a lot of time.
 

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Good evening! My machine is chewing its own head off as it tries to install an update, which was why there was no post yesterday. It is still flailing a bit at the moment, but hopefully will stay alive long enough for me to send one out. :)
looks like it worked :p haha

and thank you for the next part of your writeup ... seriously interesting stuff! can't wait for the next one :)
 
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Quick update. The artist has started sending me roughs, which is great. Going to share one with you all today. :)



Obviously no context yet. You'll have to play the game to find out where it fits in!
 
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Good evening. Just a short one this evening, but i hope it can help anyone in a similar position. :)

External Editing

As noted previously, I will go over every entry myself twice before this point, technically three times. First, when it is written initially, second when i plug it in, and thirdly when I check the game is functioning correctly. But, there is always room for improvement. With Pale Harbour friends of mine were going through and editing the script, but this was being done whenever they had spare tome, so the process was slow. Thankfully when i moved over to Sperasoft I had the money available to pay for an external editor to do it in one go.

I went with Servicescape because they had a good reputation, and Xperteditor because she was at the top of the list, ranked by reviews. Usually the way this works is that i will send over the unlockable content first, and while she works on that, I will complete the previous step. This year, thanks to having everything already plugged in, I sent that through and started on book 5 instead. But, when the lore was sent through, I send her the main script itself and plugged the edited copy into the game.

In previous versions I was splitting this up by the paragraph to make sure it all fit in the page, even with resizing. Thanks to the addition of the text mesh pro options I was able to pit it all into Red Ripper with the justified option, and it all worked out nicely. This saved a considerable amount of time!

In any case, when the main script comes back I will go through it and check all of the changes. 99% are accepted, with just the occasional change or rejection. If, during this time, I come across another issue while reading the script, I will correct that as well. When the script has been checked I will then go through and plug all of the entries back in. I used to highlight the exact lines which had been edited and transfer those over, but then I missed a few and only caught them during the audio checks, so now I just plug in all of the pages, even if they were not changed by the editor, to be on the safe side.

Overall I would recommend using an external editor if you can afford one. When it comes to game text a writer can get very 'into' the script and not realise there are mistakes. Having someone look over it, preferably a professional, can give you valuable feedback which you would otherwise have missed.
 
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Hey all. Sorry for no update yesterday, but my machine is slowly chewing its one head off. I have ordered a replacement, which is long overdue, and I should have it next week or so. Until then I am trying to work around its frequent grinding.

So, before I press on in this thread with the pipeline discussion, a couple of updates. Art is coming in steadily, and we should see the first few colour pages coming in the next week or so. Voice over is also coming along, with my father sending me an hour's worth of content a day. That means we should be well on track to be done by the end of April, possibly May if things have to take a break due to any currently unforeseen issues. I also got the first passes of the tracks from Cryo Chamber, and they are GOOD. I have a little feedback, but they look like they will be done in the next few days at this rate.

Anyway, on with the next part!

Art and Music

The first step in this stage of the pipeline is to randomise the page numbers. This is done for the PC and tablet builds. I will have made a temporary tablet build which can step through the pages in numerical order before now, in order to see if any pages overflow the text boxes. So when the PC version has been checked and all of the page numbers updated, I will copy this across and replace all the data in the tablet build.

This then allows me to step through the pages and see if it is suitable for art. The criteria for this is:

  • It must only take up one page (obviously)
  • It should not be a page where the player can lose stamina where possible, in case that means they reach it and die without unlocking the image.
  • It cannot be a shop.
  • It probably should not be a 'you have already done that' entry.
  • It can't be a death page, or show the player directly killing an enemy. If it is an iconic enough character then it can show the creature alive, but if the page it appears on isn't available then that's tough.

As I go through the pages I make a note in a text file, saying what the possible entry is. When the whole game has been sorted I then split this list into blocks of 10 pages, and pick a suitable entry from in that block. That means that roughly one in every 10 viable entries will have a specific image. Naturally if there is a run of deaths or long paragraphs, the gap between images could be much, much bigger, but that is how I try to space them out.

All of the information about the pages is then added to a document I send to the artist. This contains all of the requested pages, the general images and front cover.

While this is going on I also contact the musician and voice actor. In the case of music Cryo Chamber have a system they use for commissioning new pieces, and we have got a pattern down now. So I will focus instead on VO.

I send my father the edited script, and he reads the entries in his home studio. This is where he records a lot of his folk music, and is pretty decent when it comes to shutting out noise. So long as the cruise ships on the Tyne are not honking away like idiots that is! In any case, he sends me these files, and I will go through and edit them. Specifically I will go through listening to the full read of a page to see if there are any issues. So, if he makes a minor error that can be corrected, or which changes the script in an inconsequential way, I will update the text and put a yellow mark on the page number. If it can't be used due to a missed line, then it gets a red label for re-do's.

I have a piece of 'silent' audio which is 1 second long. I go in and use this to break up the sentences and cover any background noise, as well as mask any pops or clicks not caught by the filters already. Once the entry is sorted, I will place it in a folder for later. At the end of the week I got through each of the entries again to make sure I have not missed anything. If they are fine, I add them to the game and move them into an 'added' folder so they are out of the way. This then continues for all of the pages, until we're done!

After the internal testing, this is naturally the longest and most demanding phase of the process. If the game has 650 pages, that is 650 audio files i will need to edit, check, and add. Short entries like 'you have already done that' are fine, but when it is a 2-page discussion about dismemberment, that can take a good chunk of time to deal with. Still, having voice over, especially done by a professional storyteller, is a great boon to the product and a great USP.
 
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