11 January 2017

In the works

Pick up smithereens
I'm hoping to get #11 out of the door within (quite) a few weeks. Since the release of #10, I've been trudging along, adding fixes, tweaks and content. I'm currently wrapping my head around two major additions for the next version: A proper starting settlement, and a basic system for bounties ("quests"). Both of these complex tasks imply various changes and additions that need to be done to the system, and they are tangled into each other as well, since the starting settlement will naturally be where you pick up your first bounty. Development is still at an early enough stage that fairly important parts of the engine are missing or incomplete. Once I manage to pump out some interesting settlements, for instance, it should be trivial (system-wise) to add more content and variation to them. Trivial, I say, knowing that the really time-consuming part of development is often designing and balancing content.

I put road generation on halt when
it started throwing swastikas at me.
Regarding settlement generation, I've been trying out different strategies: Settlements as blobs containing houses and points of interest, settlements starting from a single point and spawning outwards, or popping up along random roads, or as climate templates … The results have been unsatisfactory. Given the current map digging routines, really made for wilderness generation, it's been difficult to achieve the kind of division of space that a settlement should have. What's more, the settlements have to be tactically interesting, as they will set the stage for duels, robberies and other events later on. At the moment, I'm considering using prefabricated blueprints to a large extent. It would break my heart to see the same starting settlement again and again, but something quite static might provide a spring board for more testing.

Adding bounties is also a tough nut to crack. I want to get it as right as I can from the outset, to avoid having to come back and make too many major changes afterwards. Thus spake the optimist. Bounties touch upon many other aspects of the game, from map generation to skill advancement. I'm talking about proper story lines here, not just dumping some goon's head at the local tribunal to collect the cash reward (you can already do that in #10). As with settlements, I'll probably add something very simplistic for now, just to sort out the basics, like how the game world should spawn and know about bounty-related places, having villagers disperse rumors about active bounties, getting an interface for rewards/resting/experience, and so forth.

Hunted by kerebears
A detail I'm currently pondering, is simply how to present a bounty to the player. I hope to avoid dialogue trees, and have been envisioning a game with the player as "the silent type", and NPCs shouting out chat lines as appropriate. If that's going to work, it's pertinent to avoid the typical trope of NPCs just throwing random quests at the player upon arrival. It might just be a question of writing the right pieces of dialogue. For instance, a bounty to join a hunters' club could be presented by way of a kid sitting outside, proclaiming how he'd like to be a member, if he could fulfill the membership requirements (bringing in a random named animal, for instance). It's not Ibsen, perhaps, but I guess it would be acceptable in a crpg, as a way to inform the player of a certain possibility space.

Here and now, I may sidestep the issue, slap a Wanted-poster up on the wall of the jailhouse or post office and see where it takes me.

Also in the works is a travelogue mode, that zooms out on the map and gives the player access to various utilities (setting waypoints, logging rumors and bounties, etc). I may not need this for #11, but it's going to be a boon as the game world gets more involved.

As always, Minotauros