Post news RSS Dev Log: Week 3 (out of 5)

A summary of the previous weeks of development. (3/5)

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DAY 15 (18-3-2018): Faster!
- Made the conversation of the drug dealer, and the conversation of the medical supplies guy.
Due to an urgent matter, I couldn't meet my goal of finishing the first Milestone (the neighborhood). I really don't like the speed of my work, I feel like I am very slow.
I will rethink my time schedule, I think I can work faster than this. 15 days, and it is still less than 20% done of the whole mod.

DAY 16 (19-3-2018): More Conversations, please!
- Worked on more conversations.
It is always tempting to create new dialogue. There are many things the player might want to know about the character.
But .. that would work better in a large game, where every time the player finishes a mission, he comes back to know more about the characters. In a small mod though, this can quickly become a distraction.
I am trying to give the player as most options as possible to know more about the characters, while keeping it short enough so it does not pull the player away from the main focus.

- I am trying to give each character a unique 'voice'.
Of course, It is a bit challenging in a game without Voice Acting, but it is possible. Every character should have a unique 'style' (voice) in talking, for example:
Are they talkative or concise ?
What kind of vocabulary do they use ? Simple or complex ?
What is the theme of their words ? A magic dealer will use more magic-related words, a doctor would use more words related on health and cleanness .. etc
Are they friendly or hostile ? Professional or amateur ?

- I will start working on a drawing of the main characters!
I will upload it to Steam Workshop page when it is done. I might even try to make a colored version of it. It will take some time, though, as I don't have much time to finish it in one go.


DAY 17 (20-3-2018): Revisiting the Schedule.
- Finished the 'Magic' and 'Tech' conversations.
I really had a lot of fun writing those ! I hope you like it.
I tried to understand why I take longer than expected in writing conversations ? Here is what I found:
1- Mainly because I know the character's role, not what they will exactly say (aside from a few fixed, plot-related lines).
2- The characters are not simple merchants, they also have relations to the team members, and also opinions about the world and the mission. I try to keep it as short as possible though.
3- To save time, I did not write the full conversations on paper (that would have taken 2 weeks at least !).
4- Revisions. By the time a conversation is done, I become more familiar with the characters and story of the conversation, than when I started writing. Usually those revisions are not major.
5- Unexpected real life.

- Re-evaluated the production schedule based on the experience so far.
I was very hopeful when I decided this mod would take a month :) Actually, it happens that on average, I need exactly 1 month from now to finish the mod and release it :) That is based on my current speed. If I could speed this process up, that could be 20 days, give or take.

- Warning! Do NOT Cut A Conversation Branch.
One of today's conversation had 3 main branches. After writing one of them, I discovered that part of it would go better in another branch (The flow of the conversation would become more natural and logical). So I CUT the branch and then tried to paste it .. nothing happened ! The branch was bye-bye. No Ctrl+Z either ..
So, I closed the conversation, and for the first time -and hopefully the last-, I was glad I did Not save my work ! When I reopened the conversation, the lost branch was there, but I had to remake some minor modifications that were lost too.
Copying is still fine, though. Now I copy the branch I wanted to cut, then delete it after I make sure it was copied safely :)

DAY 18 (21-3-2018): The Main Conversation
- I am half-way through the main conversation; the one where the team sets up the plan before going.
I am glad I kept it to the last ! I started with the other conversations in the neighborhood (I call them 'side conversations') because they are less vital to the story, but they are still very important in getting a sense of the characters.

Before writing the dialogue of the team, I had to understand the characters of the team. So, writing the side conversations helped me understand the friends and relatives of the team, and how they are related to them. This helped me establish the past of the team, and understand them better. Of course, I had a general idea about the core relations and characteristics for each character, beforehand.

Think about it as starting from the past (side conversations) of the team, and going to the present moment (the main conversation) .
Now I have the background of the whole team set up. I know their past, habits, and goals ..etc from writing the side conversations. Time to finish the main conversation (I will call them 'conv' from now on) so we can start this run !

DAY 19 (22-3-2018): The Main Conversation 2
- Almost finished the conversation. Few things in real life poped up at once ..
I learned a lot just by writing the the neighborhood. I revisited a convo in the first scene today, and I felt a big difference. Thankfully, the first scene does not need a remake or anything, it is just different.

There are many things that I have learned, mainly about dialogue. I am glad I did not write the dialogue before, because it would have been painful to rewrite it or throw it away whenever I learn something new.
It is kind of a trade off, if you are an experienced writer and know what you're doing, then it is always a good idea to have a document of the dialogue. But in my case, it is more helpful to write it in the editor, because I am surrounded by the map and portraits ..etc and I can test the game immediately anytime. This gives me a better sense of the setting I am writing for.

I hope by the end of the project I will have a better sense of the writing process, and what works and what doesn't. Then make a final revision for the whole game to bring all dialogues to a the same level of quality. I don't want to just keep iterating over a single scene, improving it over and over.
Note: The "Final Revision" idea probably wont work in a bigger project (like DF or HK). Like most of the advice here, they are in the context of a simple mod by a single person, not a large group by a large team.

DAY 20 (24-3-2018): The Main Conversation Done !
- Phew! that took a while.. but I don't regret it.
The main conv is the biggest, probably in the whole game. It links almost all the characters and organizations (in different ways) in the story. It represents the opinions of four different characters, each with their own goals and motivations. Not to mention using some variables and scripts here and there.
So yeah, it had to take some time. Now I have two secondary merchants I need to write some chit-chat for. And then the scene will be ready to be tested with all the conversations available and the main flow in place.

A Note, though: Due to the mod being a single mission (for production reasons), the player cannot explore the characters and build relations with them properly. That is why I kept the team personalities from being 100% unique, to about 70-80%.
It is hard to introduce Three totally different characters so fast in one mission mod, and ask the player to know them and relate to them! But when they share some 'agreement' (they are Not similar, they just agree on a few more things) it keeps the conversations from going in all directions, and keep the perspective of the player focused on the important parts of the character.

- Did some research for my main artwork for the mod. It will not be featured in-game though, but mainly as a cover for the steam page.

DAY 21 (25-3-2018): NPC Party !
- Finished all the conversations in the second scene.
I am glad no two conversations feel the same. But I found that some convs give the player different options (nice vs. rude), while some others keep the player going in one direction. I will try to balance them later.

- It has been a while since I tested the scene in the game. For about 5 days or so I have been working only in the Editor.
Today I did the first in-game test, and was surprised when I found all the NPC are wearing only their underwear cloths !
Immediately I remembered I still didn't give them cloths. Back then I was like: "Let's test the main flow first then do the 'decorations'."
I think I was right and wrong about this:
1- Writing a conv without testing it helps to keep it all at the same level of quality, because it usually takes a day or so.
The other approach is to write a part -> test it -> then polish it .. and repeat. This could take some time, making the work on the conv split over multiple days. I found that to not work well for me.
2- Delaying the test (and being away from the game for a while) reduced my sense of the characters and the setting. When you test the scene, you can see the map, characters, portraits ..etc. This can keep you 'in the zone', and help you to write better.

- Found a weird bug today:
1- There are conversation A and B which are enabled at the map start, and conv C to H are not enabled at map start.
2- There are 4 intractable props (doors) that are not enabled at map start. They lead to 4 intractable actors (with conversations) who are also not enabled at map start.
3- When the player finishes conv A, the conv's last line sends an Event. A Trigger watches for the Event, and 'enables' the intractable props and actors.
4- When I start the map, then go straight to conv A, everything goes fine.
But when I start the map and I go to conv B (which has nothing to do with triggers or events), I find that when I finish it, Some props and actors become enabled ! What is puzzling me is that some actors are still not enabled !
I will see about it tomorrow.

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