Post feature RSS Roki demo - Creative process and puzzles

Recapping some of my thought process from back when I was creating the content for the demo and explaining the process for the puzzles (spoilers!)

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Hello there!

Now that I have received some feedback and seen more playthroughs of Roki, it seems like a good time to talk a bit about various design choices and go deeper into the puzzles in the game. Considering there is seemingly a difficulty cap I didn't foresee, and perhaps some improvements could be made. If you found yourself confused while playing the demo, this is the place for you to make your suggestions to change that for the next release!

I'll start from my creative process, mainly to hide the actual spoilers to the bottom of the article. I'll try a sort of QA format at least in part for clarity, although I am not exactly "defending" my choices here, but rather trying to explain what went through in my mind back when I made them. :)

Before I jump into the bullet points, lets talk about the inspiration behind the mod and how the lore was formed. Likewise, Half-Life's Black Mesa in New Mexico, the location of Roki Research Center takes place near a real life landmark, set somewhere in the area of Roki Tunnel in Georgia. I chose this location because I wanted to find a place somewhere in the world as opposite to the Black Mesa as possible, which would still be within former Soviet territory, and have something historically relevant nearby. I wanted the story to take place in a Soviet military base, in order to be able to pull in the old weapons from that era to the game and work them into the story plausibly. I figured the scale of interdimensional experiments that would take place in a research complex such as Black Mesa, would have other facilities around the globe in order to build a functioning network, and came up with my own. That's about it.

I also originally tried to make the main character of the game a relatively popular streamer of Half-Life mods, as a homage, and in order to have an established character as the protagonist, but he didn't bite, so I removed all his resemblance from the game. There are still plenty of references in the files to that content creator because of those days of the development.

Now, the QA.

1. The voice acting is strange/the Russian doesn't make sense

There is a very simple answer to this. I am not a voice actor, and even more importantly; I DO NOT ACTUALLY SPEAK RUSSIAN. Although I did my best to check the grammar and research whatever translations I used, when it comes to dealing with a foreign language like that, errors are inevitable. Additionally, when it comes to the speaking lines, my own accent is definitely leaking through more often than not, and I am simply not skilled enough to make up enough distinct voices to truly separate the characters. That said, any voice actor applications are welcome. :)

Oh, and the reason why in the first puzzle the numbers are recited in Russian (which actual Russian speakers might be able to tell, are still kinda strange sounding, I made my best to confuse them too) was supposed to be taken as a joke. The player is expected to fail here in order to have a personal touch in causing the resonance cascade.

2. Too much empty space

Ah yes, the corridors are quite empty. In the first area this was originally due to because of a bit of a struggles I encountered with the engine, which I later resolved, but didn't bother going back. There were originally supposed to be a few more guards and scientists roaming around, as well as another original character, a janitor, who I intended to be the actual player ally after the disaster. I ran out of time and patience to implement him at the end. Additionally, I later figured the emptiness could be easily explained by the timezone difference. There are 10 hours in between Black Mesa and Roki, and Gordon only made it to the tram at 8:47. You wake up from the couch in Roki at 18:42 (There's a clock on the wall). It is implied that the rest of the science team is already off the clock for the evening, and the part they were supposed to play for the experiment is minimal and mostly automated.

As for the Soviet areas, well, yes, they are supposed to be abandoned. I did my best in trying to slap in some wear and tear here and there, left on the lights for the sake of gameplay, and avoided any human characters aside a single skeleton. If you've got any suggestions on how to improve the atmosphere, your input is very much appreciated. :)

3. Difficulty - No armor?

Yup, I stripped the possibility to change the difficulty and left the player with no armor, not to mention, with less ammunition. On the other hand, I made the flashlight unlimited, and the weapons more powerful, and finally the guard more capable. I ran a few play test sessions with friends who have never touched Half-Life and tried to balance the game further after those, but it is still admittedly a difficult game at times. I will do my best to listen your suggestions, but I do not wish to lower the difficulty ramp too much. I will get further into the actual puzzles below, where I believe more attention for the sake of clarity and fun game play might be required. :)

Monsters and Easter-eggs

Those of you who have already played through the demo, may have encountered this little fellow

hermes


I call him Hermes. He ain't a very complicated fellow. Somewhat aggressive, but rather dumb. Get close to his personal space and he will chase you, but might even give up if you run away. What's special about him, is his bulletproof back. His weak points are his under belly and head. I would advise you not to waste your bullets on any other part of his body. It might be best to wait until he rises up to attack you (or look around) and land a nice shot on his chest.

Then there are these crate skins you might have seen elsewhere as well:

12658


I created these myself over 16 years ago, and since then this reskin has been featured in more than a few mods throughout the years. I wanted to implement for something of my own too, so here we are. These replace the standard supply crates in Roki, and you can often find ammo and health in them.

You can find and download the original HL2 reskin here:
Gamebanana.com

In case you struggled with finding weapons and ammo while playing, you can watch the walkthrough video I have posted. In it I show you the location of the first shotgun, the door the guard can open for you for some extra pistol ammo (should you have chosen to spare him) and the bolt-action rifle.

SPOILER ZONE

Now, I have received quite a bit of feedback regarding the main puzzle of the game. It has confused more than enough people with the multiple choice, that it is actually the main reason I decided to write this article. Again, my hope is to improve it rather than either defend or discard of it. Lets walk through it.

wiring


Above diagrams are the primary hints I put into the game for the switch puzzle. First one for the door, with the positions for the three switches (A1, A2, A3), and second for the water pump you need to start in order to drain the water from the lower level in order to access the third switch (A3). The gates in the pictures respond to the positions of the switches, which are additionally colour coded. For the pump, you will need to set A1 to the far most left position under the green, and A2 switch to the middle position under the yellow cable.

rki1a20000


For the door, all three colours are used. Yellow for A1 (L1 line), green for A2 (L2), and red for A3 (L3). Fun fact, the colours are chosen by the old Russian standard for 3-phase wiring. Now, of course I do not expect everyone to be an electrician, and I did my best to simplify the diagrams, but it is clear some additional guidance is required. This is where I need to rely on you, good people of the community, as I am all out of ideas.

You may have noticed that, for the most part, each position of the switches correspond to some sort of function in the map. Here's a list of all of them:

  1. A1 (located upstairs)
    • Red = The lights of the entire floor
    • Yellow = The main door
    • Green = The water pump
  2. A2 (main level)
    • Red = Nothing (sparks)
    • Yellow = The water pump
    • Green = The main door
  3. A3 (The flooded lower level)
    • Red = The main door
    • Yellow = Nothing (default position)
    • Green = The turrets (only active on this position)

The rooms are for the switches are marked with a sign for electrical room. Now, as I have mentioned several times, all suggestions and feedback are welcome. I look forward to any ideas for improving the game experience of Roki. :)

That's pretty much it for this article. Thanks for reading, and of course, playing!

-Kaski

Comments
HerzogAgain
HerzogAgain - - 43 comments

I would suggest you to redraw the diagrams so that any player(not only an electrician) could understand the logic of switching of the levers. First of all, the player should turn on the pump. It is pretty obvious. Make him to move the A1 and A2 levers to the SAME position. For example, it could be the Green light. Most of HL-players will move these levers to this position intuitively. Then, after accessing to the lower level, make the player to move A1&A2;&A3; levers to the Yellow position to open the door. The main rule for a player could be "There are the same lights - there is one action, different lights - no actions". And, please, change this letter "M" on the diagram to something more useful, for example, PUMP and MAIN DOOR.

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Kaksikasvoinen Author
Kaksikasvoinen - - 23 comments

Thanks for the suggestion, I will look into it. I could definitely add a symbol of the pump and the door to the diagrams to replace the "M" for example. As for the colour order, I have considered that I could colour the ports in the diagram to correspond the cables as an additional hint. Perhaps I could also slap in a sign or two for the pump outside the room it is located in, to try to guide the player to it. As well as for the A1-3. The pump puzzle is technically a tutorial for the door one after all, so anything to make it more obvious should be considered, likewise more ammo, I suppose (maybe in the room with the rifles?).

I originally wanted to make both cables yellow for the pump, but there was a logic issue with that I couldn't overcome easily. I even considered more options than just three for a switch box or two, but in the hindsight, that would have been obviously an error which I am glad to have avoided.

You also mentioned the red doors earlier. Maybe if they opened already when the player was close enough to them, let's say, a few meters away from them? They could also linger open like grocery store doors until the player was far enough again too.

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HerzogAgain
HerzogAgain - - 43 comments

About the red doors. Is there any possibility to mount a light bulb under the door? The same rule is "If the bulb is green - the door's open, red bulb - closed". Or something like that.

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Kaksikasvoinen Author
Kaksikasvoinen - - 23 comments

That's a good idea, I can work with that.

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