A game by Heather Logas and her friends

Uncategorized

WIP Wednesday — 10/3/2012

Other things in my life forced me to take a break for a couple weeks, but I have just completed a satisfying chunk of work on BYCYE. I am still looking at the At Gates scene, adding in ways for people to do things “out of character” which then impact their personality profiles. I am also re-writing some of the dialog as I go, as I went a little nuts with the weird accents the first time through and the NPCs just sound awkward to me now.

My organizing spree a month or so ago really paid off today. I wasn’t quite sure where I was, but I opened up the BYCYE folder, quickly found the file I was working on, opened it and easily found exactly where I left off last time — along with instructions to myself about what to do next. I think when you are working on an indie project where you can’t guarantee sitting down to work every day, being organized so you can go in and out of the work without wasting valuable time trying to figure out where you left off or what you were going to do next is vital.

Next step: More accent reduction and more “DSA” creation for the At Gates scene. I am over half way done editing this scene now. I told my volunteer producer/slave-driver that I would be complete with this scene by November 1st, and I think that’s very doable. I am working full time again (and then some) but the only big event between now and the 1st is Halloween, so my goal is actually be to get this scene done by Friday 10/26 and then take a break for Halloween week. I can do it!!

Dream well,
Heather


Work in Progress Wednesday

I’ve been mostly working on getting my files in order. What a drag.

Work Log:
Thurs 8/2
re-Downloaded Notepad ++
Blog Post
Downloaded scene files from website

Next: Compare three Road Scene versions, find right one. Put locally and on site. Put others in test folder or something.

Fri Aug 3rd
Compared three versions of at gates scene. added new reuse_hide command to replace placeholder dieoff. Reorganized folders so that I can tell which file is which.

Working practice: work on file in “in progress” folder, make sure it works, then overwrite in “scenes” folder, upload to server and update svn.

Created Vision Board! Helped me feel back on track, reconnected with the game and why I am doing it.

Monday 8/6
Blog post

Tuesday 8/7
Finished moving around scene files — now all organized! Even left myself notes as text files!

Next: I need to double check that the correct scenes are on SVN, but I think its time for an organizing break. This next week I am going to focus on revisiting one of the scenes that is completely written, but which I never went back and added the Dynamic Personality Trait system thingie in. It would also be nice to create an illustration (I am ever so visual) and re-read some Lone Wolf books.


Motivation Monday — Vision Board

My mom originally taught me how to do vision boarding. I knew she didn’t make it up, but after a cursory search online, I discovered that this is a much more widespread concept than I had thought. It was even featured in The Secret and on Oprah. Here’s a book about it, and even an “idiot’s” guide!

Vision Boarding is a technique for visualizing something you want in life. I’ve used them around New Year’s to help me contemplate what I am hoping to get out of the upcoming year, and they are also useful for times of great flux, or when starting a new endeavor. Recently I completed one that helped bring into focus my personal set of values for the sake of clarifying that my goals and values are in alignment. I also find vision boarding especially useful in the early stages of a project, or at moments when projects seem out of focus, to bring clarity to what the project is about, why I’m doing it, and how to best pursue it. Projects have a personality all their own, and vision boarding is a way to understand that personality so that one can honor it while working.
(more…)


Work in Progress Thursday 8/2

So obviously I am a day behind this week. Its just been that kind of week.

Note to self: OMG KEEP YOUR FILES ORGANIZED AS YOU GO!!

Re-downloaded Notepad ++, in the middle of sorting out which version of “the_road” is the current one. Also note to self: If you are testing something, PLEASE label it “test” so later I know that it was a test and not the final file.

Never assume your work is not going to be disrupted for a week. Or a month. Or several months. Keep notes.

Dream Well,
Heather


Work in Progress Wednesday (with embedded Monday Post)

On Monday, we had no internet. Nonetheless, I wrote a post which I will embed after the status update. But here’s Work in Progress Wednesday!

(more…)


Work in Progress Wednesday — 7/18/2012

I decided to start out with the things that are bugging me the most, things that will make working on the game more enjoyable. By far the thing that’s been annoying me most is the fact that the community site became more or less trashed. So I have reinstated it, deleted all the spam and cleaned up certain things like the forums and the “latest activity”. I would like to polish it up some more (it could use it!) but for now at least it is not full of advertisements for cheap medications from Canada.

Please feel free to stop by the refreshed forums and say hello!

http://bycye.grou.ps/talks/7080237

Next step:
Look at the places where the game files are stored and make sure everything is in proper order.


Quick before bed insight

When considering whether or not to branch…

Branch if: You are offering the player a “side adventure”.

Don’t Branch if: You are just offering the player “more stuff to do”.

I completed writing a big scene tonight. YAY! This insight occurred to me as I was trying to decide whether to write a little side thing that the player could do during the scene. I kept thinking “well, yes it makes sense that they might try that, but what would the player GET out of it?” I realized that ultimately, the player wouldn’t be able to get very far with it and it wouldn’t feel much like a “side adventure” that they would want to tell their friends about later. It would just feel like they “did some stuff but it didn’t go anywhere”. I probably could’ve saved some writing if this had occurred to me months ago. But that’s the creative/learning process for you!

Dream well!
Heather


Just a quick weekly update

Did some very good writing this week, that I’m quite pleased with. Its still hard not to allow choices to explode out of hand. I had to make a chart so I know ahead of time where every thread is supposed to end. That way I am less likely to start spiraling off into a million directions.

The sound track for BYCYE production is the “default” (i.e. I haven’t said I like or dislike any songs) Deep Forest radio station on Pandora.

This week in one of my classes I should be getting feedback on my fellow graduate students who have all played it. I’m excited to hear what they have to say, but nervous.


2011: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.

When I created my original project pitch for Kickstarter, I knew I was underestimating how much time it would take to get this game done. I only gave myself two months because, honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to raise much more than I was asking for. In fact, I had no idea I would even be able to raise what I did. It all seemed very low stakes at the time.

We’ve come a long way since then. I’ve learned a lot over the last (nearly) year. I’ve learned that making a project all by one’s lonesome* is hard. Harder than I had guessed. I have done other, smaller things on my own, but nothing that requires this much work. Its intense.

The accountability involved with having begun this game as a Kickstarter project has just made it that more intense. I feel, whenever I sit down to work, the presence of 167 onlookers watching every word I type. I feel, whenever I am in class, or playing with my daughter, or working on anything that is NOT BYCYE, specters with disappointed looks and scolding, wagging fingers floating about my head. Its a strange combination of pressure I don’t need and pressure I do need. Its tempting to think I asked for funding too early, that I should have been further along in the process. But then I know its only the funding that set me on this path, and got the ball rolling.

And that ball is still rolling, make no mistake! It may at sometimes feel like its rolling up a steep incline in knee-deep mud, but its rolling nonetheless.

The last couple months I had switched focus on BYCYE from generating content to working on the presentation of the game. At the end of the Fall quarter at UCSC, we were going to have an “open studios” art show, and I was going to have a version of BYCYE available to play. I didn’t like how it looked like a web-form, and so spent some hair-tearing time making it look a little more presentable. I especially wanted to make it look good on the iPad, as I am now considering that to be the primary platform of the game. I want the player to feel as close to the experience of reading a book as possible.

It needs more work, but you can play the latest demo build of the game with the in-process-but-better-than-before styling. Or take a look at this link on your iPad. I really think it is a joy on the iPad. The touch screen is so perfect, and something about holding the mostly unobtrusive iPad and actually physically touching the game makes it so much more of an intimate experience, which is what I want.

The show also gave me the opportunity to consider how I would present BYCYE in a gallery space. So many times when games are shown in galleries, it just doesn’t work. I have lots of thoughts on why that is that I will refrain from at the moment, but the point is it wasn’t enough for me just to have my game be there. It had to feel like it belonged there. So I approached it like an installation. I created a wooden, bean shaped, platform that served as a lap-desk which the iPad was affixed to. The frame containing the iPad and the lap-desk itself was painted a deep purple. Then (with help!) I hauled one of our couches into the gallery space and placed the iPad bearing lap-desk onto the couch. I left it sitting like that and slunk off into the shadows to observe audience reactions.

It was a huge success. People would come and sit with the game for up to 20 minutes. It blew my mind, especially considering the game was competing for attention from multiple video projects and a huge nebula sculpture! Not to mention the other amazing art projects dispersed throughout our building. I was very pleased with how it turned out.

So what to expect in 2011? Well, what I’ve learned this last year is this:

  • Programming and Writing are both much easier (and more fun!) if you don’t try to do them at the same time.
  • “Just getting it done” is fine (and necessary!) for commercial games, but when I start to feel this way about this kind of project, something isn’t working — it is doing a disservice to my own process, and to the finished game.
  • It’s not worth doing if I’m not giving myself space to learn something from it.
  • Consistent effort > Arbitrary deadlines. (Thanks Dan!)

Here, therefore, are my resolutions:

  • I will work on BYCYE everyday — unless I’m sick, or on family holidays.
  • I will not make up anymore arbitrary deadlines. If I think I know when the game will be done, I won’t share that information with anyone. :)
  • I WILL put up periodic builds so anyone whose interested can see how its coming, and offer feedback.
  • I will try to get back in the habit of writing updates on a more regular basis.

Once again, thanks to all of you who have helped me come this far. I was chatting with a friend tonight on IM who pointed out that successfully funding BYCYE was what I needed to get myself motivated to figure out what I actually wanted to be doing with my life and start doing it. I am very grateful for that motivation.

Dream well,
Heather

*I have had help here and there — which I am very grateful for — but almost all of the game content itself has still been up to me.


Push to Alpha and Halloweeeeen!

Hello everyone! As you know I am back in school. I was a little concerned about the impact of this on BYCYE, but as it turns out I have a chance now to devote a whole chunk of time to it. I am taking a class for my program which is a project-oriented class. And so, I’ve sneakily slid BYCYE into that project slot. How awesome is that? I’ve written up a new schedule for BYCYE and according to the new schedule, I should have the game in Alpha by December.

But if that’s not enough to brighten your day, I would also like to make a couple more announcements.

First of all, I am planning a developer’s chat for sometime next week. Vote for your favorite time slot here.

Secondly, I am taking the bold (perhaps incredibly foolish) step of releasing periodic unfinished game builds. You will have a chance to play the game as it stands in an incredibly raw state and give early feedback on it. >gulp< Look for the first of these raw builds in the coming week.

Dream well,
Heather


What is courage?

One thing that has been a big stumbling block to me during the creation of BYCYE has been the design of the character creation sequence. At this point, character creation has been through so many revs that I couldn’t even tell you just how many. At this point I think I have it to where I want, but I’ve still been stumbling over some of the details.

The big problem is this — what is compassion? Or courage? Or law-abiding? All these things, which are the key stats that BYCYE uses to shape its story, are kind of relative. The character creation in its current form is your character in a coma remembering their life. I had questions for players to answer that went something like this:

“You remember the most courageous thing you ever did:
1) Watched a scary movie at a slumber party
2) Pulled a baby from a burning building
3) Asked your high school crush on a date
4) Left home for the first time”

Ok, so maybe watching a scary movie as “the most courageous thing ever” isn’t that brave. But what about the other three items? Who’s to say that asking a girl out takes less courage than pulling a baby from a burning building? Maybe a character has no fear of danger, but a huge fear of social awkwardness. Maybe the character couldn’t wait to leave home — or maybe it really was the hardest thing they ever did. How can I rate these items with numbers from most courageous to least without understanding more about the characters’ backgrounds or mindsets? And how can I collect that kind of information without blowing character creation out into a HUGE process?

I’ve been struggling with this for months (which is why the character creation is a big fat placeholder on the demo page). But maybe I have a solution.

Compare the above passage with this:

“You’ve always considered yourself to be:
1. A very cautious individual.
2. Hesitant to take risks
3. Fairly brave
4. Astoundingly courageous”

Obviously there are plusses and minuses here. On the plus side, I am leaving it completely up to the player about whether they consider their own character to be brave or not, without filtering through my ideas of what it means to be “brave”. On the minus side, there is a lot less character to this way of writing. It feels less story-like and less rich. It doesn’t blend seamlessly into the rest of the story.

So I’m not sure if I’m going to drastically change this again, but here’s where character creation is now. Its not as “cool” but I feel that, overall, it will produce the results that I want and that players will expect.

Comments, thoughts appreciated


Dev Diary #35 — Mini Diaries, 8/23 – 8/29

Monday — Working on “big reveal” scene, aka the “Dream Market”.

Tuesday — “Dream Market” scene some more. Still a lot more to do on this scene. I notice I get more excited to write dialog after spending time reading well written fiction. Been reading Mists of Avalon, it puts me in a perfect mood for BYCYE. Changed an oversight from the other night — the women in Thlanviviak should not be able to nurse! So much for my “pro-nursing in public” sentiment that I was not so subtly adding to this scene!

Weds — Got back in touch with an artist that was interested in doing some work. Gave her some guidance about the type of things we would need. We’ll see what happens. Its hard to get people who, you know, have their own whole lives to deal with to do volunteer work. Shocking. But hopefully something good will come of it. Did some other maintenance stuff on Wreckamovie, also got back in touch with Robert and we will be talking next week.

Thursday — More on “Dream Market” scene. Considering tracking how much the player tips their hand and then getting them kicked out. There are easier ways to do this of course, but I wonder if they would be as satisfying? Again torn between doing things the “right” way and the “Let’s eventually finish this game” way. Wondering how much it would improve the player experience vs. how much work it would actually be. Want to finish this scene by the end of the month so I guess I’ll see if there’s time.

Friday — Spent some time planning things out, trying to guess when I might have my next big chunk of the game done. Mid October?

Saturday — Dream Market some more. I’ve been producing this scene by using the bare minimum of scripting, and just putting in comments in places to remind me to go back and put in some code. I don’t know if this is more efficient than just scripting as I go along, but it feels like a struggle in my brain to jump back and forth between coding and writing. I just hope I’m not creating a huge mess to figure out later. Up way too late. Celia will probably wake me up in 5 hours. Ugh.

Sunday — Dream Market. Almost done with this one conversation. The people in the game have come a long way from the weird accent I experimented with in the beginning. The woman I am writing now is much more formal sounding. I guess originally the weird accent (which, honestly, just didn’t work) was inspired by Jeff Smith’s Bone. I admire the way he is able to write specific accents for specific characters and they remain believable, colorful, and consistent. But since I eventually want to publish this game, I think the route for me is to just not spend lots of time experimenting in that way and just write what I already know how to write. Maybe the next chapter will go to another part of the Dreamlands and I can save my goofy accents for that. :)

Not ready for Monday to come…


Heather goes on vacation, but leaves a present

Hey folks. Its time for me to get packing for that cruise I mentioned in the last post. Yay water! And whales!!

Things will be pretty quiet ’round these parts for the next couple weeks I’m afraid. But I am leaving you a bon voyage gift.


Its the second of Robert’s Making of Before You Close Your Eyes videos!

Once Robert’s back he can directly upload it to the grou.ps site for us. Speaking of the grou.ps site, how about leaving a quick note about your thoughts on the vids? I started a subject for that right here.

Good night all! And dream well!


Dev Diary #34 — story vs. game

Work has slowed to a crawl again as I have moved myself and my family to Santa Cruz, CA to begin yet another new stage of my life. This one is called “Grad School part 2″. I do already have a Master’s degree but now I am pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts. The difference (before you look at me dumb-founded and ask what the heck is going on) is that the MFA opens the possibility of teaching at the University level. This is something that appeals to me for a number of reasons. I think I will enjoy teaching, and I know I enjoy research and making crazy games. A potential regular paycheck is also not without its appeal. I have no idea what’s going to happen here, or after I finish the program I’m in, but I’m taking the plunge back into academia anyway. Wish me luck.

As for Before You Close Your Eyes, I continue to work on it every day. Currently I am working on a scene that I have re-written about five times. Let me tell you about it.
(more…)


Dev Diary #32 — Trudging through the Muck

Tonight finds our adventurer in a surly mood. Actually, I don’t know if surly begins to cut it. Grumpy, frustrated, even a bit — dare we say it? Angry. I’m angry at myself.

BYCYE is on my mind constantly. I think about it all the time, no matter what I’m doing. I want so badly to sit down and “do it right”. Which means to me: cranking out code, diagrams, drawings, getting the ball rolling on enlisting illustrators to visualize the world. Do nothing but emerging myself in this project until I come out the other side of the tunnel waving a finished game.

But there’s just so much IN THE WAY. I’ve been contracting like crazy, and when the contracts pause I take a moment to catch my breath and then am back in the fray. I am working on BYCYE every-single-day. But lately it seems like many days are just small stabs that barely get me anywhere.

The fact is, I’m starting to find contracting to be somewhat soul-sucking and exhausting. Occasionally I have a project that is really fun, and some of my clients are great, but overall its wearing on me. I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about an art teacher who once told our class to never try to make a living off of art. If you do art commercially, she said, it loses all value to you — you’ll lose your taste for it.

I HAVE gotten some stuff done in the last couple weeks. I’ve been planning out the new scene, working on some marketing stuff, and >gasp< producing the Kickstarter Thank You cards. I’ve done a great deal of working on the new scene actually, since I’ve completely re-designed it from what I thought it was going to be like. Everything must be trimmed trimmed trimmed!

That’s frustrating too, but a fact of game development that cannot be avoided. Cutting, cutting, cutting. Fortunately my time making episodic games was very effective at training me to cut and save for a future installment. If I couldn’t do that, this game would never get done.

And this game WILL get done!


Grief — a story from BYCYE

This story is possibly told to the player by a character in the game. I just wrote this and like it so I want to share with you! Just in time for Mother’s Day! (uhm….forget that last part)

“Once there was a place where all the folk lived happily. Th’ children played and laughed in th’ sunshine while th’ adults sat on benches smokin’ pipes and sharin’ stories. Then one day, a boy of 10 years found a secret place in th’ woods that no one knew. There he happened on a dim and dark cave. Unafraid, th’ boy entered th’ cave. Far at th’ back he found a large nest — all covered in feathers long as your forearm. He pushed th’ feathers aside and discovered several large eggs. They were gold in color and each one five times th’ size of a peahen egg. But what excited th’ boy most was that, when he laid a hand on one of th’ eggs, he could feel the inside thrummin’ with life.

Well th’ boy scooped up one of those eggs, and carefully bore it home. He showed it to his mother, who scolded him and told him to put it back. But the boy, in his curiosity and pride, hid th’ egg instead.

Th’ next morning, the city woke to th’ panicked screams of a woman of th’ town. Her young daughter had gone missing. Th’ folk searched high and low, but could find no sign of the girl. Th’ next day another child went missin’, and th’ day after that.

Th’ mother of th’ boy who had found th’ egg was terrified but also suspicious. ‘Did you return that egg like I told you?’ she asked her son. ‘Of course mother…’ th’ boy stammered. That very day he slipped from th’ town to th’ egg’s hiding place. It was still there, but when he touched it he knew somethin’ was wrong. Th’ thrummin’ of life inside th’ egg had grown very weak. The boy took th’ egg and hastened back to th’ cave where he had found it. All th’ while he felt th’ egg’s life growin’ fainter and fainter. He came back to th’ cave and walked in carefully.

This time, th’ cave was not empty. A large bird-like creature with th’ tail of a snake sat curled around her nest, cryin’ softly. Th’ boy approached slowly and placed th’ egg in front of it. It looked up at him with great golden eyes and gasped when it saw the egg. It sniffed at th’ egg, and finally placed one great clawed hand gently around it. Suddenly th’ air in th’ cave turned hot and th’ massive head snapped up to look at th’ boy, its eyes turned to a deep blood red. Th’ boy knew what had happened — th’ egg had died.

‘You monster!’ the creature hissed. ‘Do you know what you have done?’

There was a scream heard throughout th’ countryside and th’ young egg thief was never seen again. The disappearances of th’ children in th’ city didn’t stop — if anythin’ the kidnappin’s grew more frequent. Finally came a day when no children were left in th’ city. And with th’ children, all th’ joy was gone too.”


Dev Diary #29 — Stories

It’s been quite a week. A week of contracting, confusion and conundrums. Even though my week doesn’t feel over due to the fact I have more contract work to do over the weekend, I am nonetheless relieved that Friday is here.

I do enjoy many things about contracting. I enjoy working on a variety of projects, with a variety of people. I get paid for the work I do and not for sitting in an office for X number of hours a day. I love the flexible hours and the lack of a commute, both of which allow me to spend more time with my daughter.

What I don’t like so much is the scrounging for work, the lack of personal investment in any given project and the feeling of having no control over one’s destiny. Some days it feels quite a bit like being up a creek without a paddle — trying to fish with a makeshift line, being tossed about in the water without any real means to steer. Yep. Much like that.

But enough of such things! I have something exciting to share with you all. I have written up a guidebook of sorts to the story behind this part of the Dreamlands, and specifically the city of Thlanviviak. There’s all kinds of juicy information in there, about such fun things as economies, religion, recreation and politics!

Check it out here! If you hover over it there should be a “view fullscreen” link so you can look see it better. (Thanks to Robert for setting this up!)

Once you’ve read the Mythos, take a moment to comment on this question. Knowing what parts of the story people find interesting or would like to explore more will help me shape the game.

I’m also really excited because I think the Mythos is just what we needed to allow people to make some art! This next week I am going to start contacting artists whose work I admire to ask if they’d be interested in contributing a piece here or there. If you are a maker of art, or know someone who is, and are interested in having your work appear in the game, let me know!

And for you collaborators out there (you know who you are!) I am hoping the Mythos will help you too when thinking about side-quests and encounters. Of course, feel free to ask any questions you might have.

This week I also got some more work done on the game itself, but it was a spotty effort. I continue to work on the game every single day, even if I can only squeeze in a few minutes, but the contract work I’m doing really minimized my efforts this week.


Dev Diary #27 — Accents, Writing, Ning

Its been a busy week!

One of my projects this week was to figure out what I wanted the characters in BYCYE to “sound” like. One of the best things about working on the Bone games (based on the comics by Jeff Smith) was that they were really fun to write, due to the interesting dialects of all the different characters. Writing the dialog for BYCYE wasn’t really coming together, and as was noted in the forums the girl in the mini-demo had a very inconsistent way of speaking.

So I spent a few hours watching YouTube videos of people doing different accents, especially English accents. Why English? I really can’t say. I’ve actually been thinking about this a great deal, and the only reason that makes any sense is that English accents, of one sort of another, are prevalent in the movies and comics that have come together to inspire this story. I think it was almost an unconscious decision, in a way.

Plus, English accents are fun to try to imitate. And I often write dialog by saying all the lines out loud to see if they sound good. Now that I have my own office, I can even say them out loud at a conversational volume. When I was working for Telltale, I had to whisper to myself a lot.

I am actually not a hundred percent sure I’m happy with the “commoner” accent in the game. I’m not sure I like the silent “h”‘s. It feels a bit forced. Dropping the “g” in an “ing” word feels good to me, but those silent “h”‘s…..I may have to wind up re-doing it.

Speaking of “ing” words, I should bring up Ning. Our community site is sitting on top of Ning, and just a couple days ago Ning announced it would stop supporting its free customers sometime in the near future. In case you have noticed both of these facts, don’t worry! We’re going to go ahead and keep Ning for now, paying the $5/mo. rate to keep the site going. I was considering doing this anyway, since that’s the price you need to pay in order to use your own URL.

So head on over to http://www.bycye.com and check out the community! The URL will be staying the same no matter what, so feel free to bookmark it, tweet it, and tattoo it on your forehead. You’re good!

Thanks!
- Heather


State of the Project Report

I feel incredibly awkward that this is being posted on April Fool’s Day. Please just take my word for it that no practical jokes are in this post. :)

So. Here we are. The beginning of April. Its been two months since I started working on BYCYE. So…where do we stand?

Well as I’m sure you can guess, the game is not done. I thought two months to finish this project would be “ambitious”. It turns out it was more like “crazy talk”. I thought maybe, realistically, it would be about a 3 month project. But in the real reality of the world we live in, it is more like a six month project.

Here is a summary of where the project is at as of today:

  • The game is about 90% designed (I had to do a great deal of redesigning as I went. but I feel confident that not too much is going to change from here on out.)
  • The game is about 25% scripted. It keeps getting faster to do the scripting as I go.
  • We have three side quests in production, being designed by three of our high-level backers with a little help from yours truly. If you were a collaboration level backer, its still not to late to get involved! (Message me for the information if you can’t find it).
  • I have started working with a fabulous PR/Marketing guy, Robert Pratten. Even as I type this, he is busily working on a site for us. He also has presented me with an exciting plan for spreading the word of the project far and wide.
  • I have enlisted the aid of an awesome writer and game designer, Jake Forbes. (More info on that to come).
  • Very soon I’ll be soliciting artwork for the game, then we will have more pretty pictures to look at.
  • I have made available a mini-demo of the game for all to try!
  • I want to thank you all very much for these last two months. This has been an amazing experience. I know that, without the backing I received through Kickstarter, this game would not exist at all today, not even in its partially done state. I have also learned a ton about myself, my creative process, and my ideal work processes.

    And this is not the end! Even though the Kickstarter funds are running out and I am starting to pick up contract jobs again, I am committed to completing this project. It is likely to go much more slowly than it has been, given that I have to spread myself thinner in order to pay the rent. But I am going to continue to work on the project every day, at least in small ways. There is always downtime between contracting projects and I am going to make the most of that time to bring BYCYE to life. The momentum created by these last two months will not be stopped, even if it is maybe slowed a little.

    One change that I am not excited about, but that is necessary, is that I am going to post updates once a week from now on instead of every day. Its a bummer, I know. But I think I have to do this so that I can use my time more efficiently. So starting next week, expect to see updates from me every Friday.

    Thank you again, and let me know if you have any questions, comments, or even just encouragement. (Love that encouragement!) The dream will continue, even if its at a more standard Indie-Game-Developer-with-a-day-job-and-small-child pace.


Zee honeymoon, she is over.

My two months are just about up. I will write more tomorrow about the state of the project and what is going to happen from here on out.

Today I received a call from one of my best contracting clients. She said she had some stuff coming up for me in the next weeks and oh yeah can I help with an emergency project TODAY??

So I did. In fact, I just finished at 2 am this morning.

Sadly, this meant I got no work done on BYCYE today except for some important email exchanges. Fortunately, my day is clear tomorrow so I hope to get some stuff done. After I sleep in.


Dev Diary #25 — Sunday’s Chat

Hey there, thanks to those who made it to Sunday’s chat. I had a good time, and we had a spirited conversation about the nature of choices in the game. Here’s the juiciest part:

(Dan was on a phone call during the first hour of the chat)

15:10Dan
*scrolls back* I have some stuff to say, but the moment may have passed

15:10HeatherLogas
the moment is now!

15:11malte kosian
Dan did you play the teaser game?

15:11Dan
I did

15:11Dan
I had some email feedback for Heather on an earlier draft of the game

15:11Dan
some of which is relevant now

15:12Dan
Heather, what do you see as the “major” meaningful decisions to make in this scene?

15:12Dan
e.g. “Help Callen or hurt her” “Go with her or don’t” … others?

15:12HeatherLogas
meaningful in what way?

15:13Dan
Well, like, “Approach or don’t” isn’t a Critical Decision

15:13Dan
Similarly, “look around or ask a question?” isn’t a hard choice; you can do either, or both, it’s fine

15:13Dan
But deciding whether to help her or hurt her is an important branching point.

15:14HeatherLogas
oh so your question is about what is meaningful in terms of branching?

15:14Dan
I actually published a blog post today on this topic. http://www.choiceofgames.com/blog/2010/03/5-rules-for-writing-interesting-choices-in-multiple-choice-games/

15:14HeatherLogas
I think that the most meaningful choices are which choices are most meaningful to the player

15:14Dan
Not in terms of branching necessarily, but what choices is the player supposed to Really Think About.

15:14Dan
Nobody’s going to really think about whether to “look around or ask a question”

15:15Dan
But whether to go with or go without is a bigger choice.

15:15Dan
So, what are the Big Questions of this scene?

15:15HeatherLogas
well you can opt to kill the girl or not

15:16HeatherLogas
wander off into the forest

15:16Veronica
And get et…

15:16HeatherLogas
help her or not help her

15:16HeatherLogas
go with her or leave her there

15:17HeatherLogas
so those are all big questions

15:17Dan
My concern for these questions (perhaps especially “wander off or follow”) is that many of these choices don’t provide a player with a basis to make a decision, and others have single obviously right options.

15:18HeatherLogas
what is something with an obvious right answer?

15:18Dan
Hurt Callen or not.

15:18Dan
There’s no profit in it; it’s not described in a fun way. She’s cute.

15:18HeatherLogas
so. Maybe you’re just a bastard.

15:18Dan
Er, there’s no profit in hurting her

15:19HeatherLogas
Or maybe you think she’s a monster in disguise

15:19Veronica
A trap

15:19HeatherLogas
right

15:19Dan
OK, if she could be a trap, then let’s set that as a possibility

15:19Dan
We need some warning that “beware of cute things, they may be traps”

15:19Dan
now I’ve got a sense of uncertainty. I need to think about whether to help her or not

15:20Veronica
I dunno. That sort of seems to be a given to me

15:20Dan
Little girls are not normally traps :-)

15:20Veronica
If I’m the suspicious sort, suddenly in a new place, and suddenly stumble upon a hurt little girl?

15:20Veronica
My interpretation is we suddenly find ourselves somewhere. Like we were teleported or woke up there.

15:21Dan
I stand by my claim that this choice would be more interesting/meaningful if the decision to help or hurt had clear stakes. Real consequences that seem equally appealing.

15:21malte kosian
I thought heather started the story with an open beginning.

15:22HeatherLogas
So my take on it is that different people will have different responses to the things that happen in the story

15:22HeatherLogas
if, to you, it seems obvious that you should help her that’s fine

15:22HeatherLogas
I think other people may have a different response

15:23Veronica
In life there aren’t often obvious clear rewards or consequences of doing things.

15:23malte kosian
Hm reminds me to peter Molyneux and his Good and Evil Choices talk

15:23Veronica
I think it makes it more realistic

15:23Dan
Life doesn’t always give us interesting choices.

15:24HeatherLogas
What I don’t want to do is make the game feel like its trying too hard

15:24Veronica
No, but I had no trouble falling into the flow of the story with this myself. I was a selfish character, I probably wouldn’t help

15:24HeatherLogas
think of it like you’re playing a role playing game Dan

15:24malte kosian
He said for playing a game the first time the good choice seems always be the obvious choice to the player.

15:24Veronica
If I was compassionate, I would.

15:25HeatherLogas
Malte that’s really interesting. (I love Peter Molyneux!)

15:25Dan
@malte I’ll look that up, sounds great

15:26malte kosian
I think we made the first choice with building our character.

15:26Dan
How about “wander off or not”? No basis to make a decision, but one direction kills you

15:26malte kosian
that was three years ago @GC in Leipzig

15:26Veronica
Well, there is a point there. Wander off into the dark and silent woods maybe

15:26HeatherLogas
Make it seem more scary?

15:27Veronica
Yeah

15:27malte kosian
was a problem in B&W

15:27Veronica
I didn’t think going into the woods would get me ‘et’

15:27Veronica
Though the girl’s warning did make me pause

15:27HeatherLogas
K, I can see that.

15:28HeatherLogas
What I don’t want is to put thoughts in the player’s head too much. I want them to decide for themselves what seems like the reasonable thing to do.

15:28malte kosian
but a warning sign with beware of cuteness could make your choices a little more difficult to you, if this could fit into the story some how.

15:29malte kosian
Maybe drive your choices in a “wrong”direction. Give the explanation later on.

15:29Dan
re: beware of cuteness, the choice might be more interesting if instead of a cute girl there were an annoying brat

15:29HeatherLogas
So another thing to consider is that this is the beginning of the game. Callen has useful information for you.

15:29Veronica
True. But describing the woods in a little more detail with lighting, sounds, etc shouldn’t do that.

15:30HeatherLogas
Veronica: Yes

15:30HeatherLogas
Dan: You didn’t think she was annoying? :)

15:30Dan
She wasn’t a brat, that’s for sure

15:30Dan
I’m imagining: “I hurt my foot! Get me some glow moss! Now!”

15:31HeatherLogas
Well no, she’s not. But if she were a brat she probably wouldn’t be out trying to find her lost sister.

15:31HeatherLogas
And you would care less when she disappears later (provided you had helped her).

15:32HeatherLogas
I feel like making her a brat would distance you from the story rather than bring you in.

15:32Dan

http://www.gamese****ch.com/2009/08/indepth_peter_molyneux_on_the.php

15:32malte kosian
I agree (withou knowing the whole story)

15:33HeatherLogas
oh thanks for the link Dan

15:34malte kosian
Oh I was not thinking of that talk last year in cologne. But your are right Dan that talk is similar

15:35Dan
thinking about your “suppose it’s an RPG remark”

15:35Dan
Even assuming it is an RPG, as an evil person, I should still have interesting choices

15:36Dan
There should always be at least two reasonable options, both of which have advantages and disadvantages

15:36Dan
I don’t have to know the full outcome, but I should have something to think about

15:36HeatherLogas
I have a question for you:

15:37HeatherLogas
In a certain solitaire adventure I played once, you were presented with a quest in an inn. You had the choice to either accept the quest or walk away from the whole situation.

15:38HeatherLogas
If you chose to walk away, you were taken to a passage that said something like “You leave the table and walk out of the bar. Maybe you’ll be able to find another adventure that suits you better elsewhere”. Something like that. Then the story ended.

15:38HeatherLogas
Do you think that is a meaningful choice? To walk away from the adventure right then?

15:39Dan
No, at least, not as you’ve described it

15:39HeatherLogas
OK. I read it and thought it was AWESOME.

15:39HeatherLogas
Because it mapped more closely to what my options would have been if I were actually that character — it felt more like role playing

15:40Dan
Well, it’s arguably better than just forcing your character to walk into the bar and accept the job. To me it sounds like one of those annoying Vista security warnings. “Are you sure you want to play this game?” :-)

15:41Dan
To be interesting/meaningful, choosing NOT to accept the quest should be appealing in its own right. Then I have to think about which one I’d prefer.

15:41HeatherLogas
So I guess what I’m trying to say is the experience I want to create is a feeling of role-playing, rather than a feeling that every single choice is a fascinating conundrum. Does that make sense?

15:41HeatherLogas
Sure there will be those choices in there….but its not going to be every single decision.

15:42Veronica
The thing I look at is this: I am in a suddenly new place. There is a girl sitting there who could likely be a local and have information on where I am.

15:42Veronica
Hurting her may get me information, but so may helping her in a nice way as well. Or I could just decide to ignore her all together and continue on my way

15:42Dan
Heather, do you have an opinion on where you fall in the Threefold Model (Gamist/Dramatist/Simulationist)? (or the merits of the model?)

15:43HeatherLogas
I haven’t heard of that model?

15:43Veronica
Me neither

15:44Dan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threefold_Model

15:44Dan
Gamists want to win, Dramatists want to tell a story, Simulationists want to make it “realistic”

15:44Dan
They’re not people-types per se

15:45Dan
Most people have more than one of these goals, though many people have one primary and one secondary.

15:46HeatherLogas
OK, from my quick skimming of that I guess I would fall more into the Dramatist camp

15:46Dan
I also re-summarized them in the blog post I linked earlier

15:46HeatherLogas
Although there is a certain importance to the other two as well

15:46HeatherLogas
I want the fictional world to feel consistent, but that is in service to telling a good story

15:46Dan
Ideally you’d satisfy everybody, but…

15:47Veronica
I h ave played in many high drama games that were also challenging and realistic.

15:47Dan
indeed

15:47Dan
I think multiple-choice games can be especially good for satsifying everybody at once

15:48Dan
You can choose a winning choice, a dramatic choice, a “realistic” choice (this is what my character would really do, even if it doesn’t help me win or create a great story)

15:49Dan
Anyway, I ask because I wonder what kind(s) of role-player you want to re-create

15:49HeatherLogas
I see

15:49Dan
Like, you can create the feeling of Gamist role-playing, the feeling of Dramatist role-playing, the feeling of Simulationist role-playing

15:49HeatherLogas
That’s an interesting way of putting it

15:50Dan
Veronica made a remark earlier that “In life there aren’t often obvious clear rewards or consequences of doing things” … it’s a good point

15:51HeatherLogas
I consider the best moments of role-playing to be when you are able to lose yourself in your character

15:51Dan
But if you’re a gamist, you’ll say “well, I’m here to play a game, not to live life!”

15:51Dan
And as a dramatist, you might say “How can I tell a good story if I don’t know which of these options will make the story better?”

15:51Veronica
But that is the thing with THIS game

15:52Veronica
See, this game has the basis of the idea of creating a different person and doing things that you wouldn’t neccesarilly do.

15:52HeatherLogas
no no no

15:52Veronica
No?

15:52HeatherLogas
I don’t want you to THINK about your choices in an abstract way

15:52HeatherLogas
no to Dan

15:52HeatherLogas
:)

15:52Veronica
Ok :)

15:52Dan
Fair enough

15:53HeatherLogas
I don’t want someone to say “How can I tell a good story if I don’t know which of these options will make the story better?”

15:53HeatherLogas
I want them to think “This choice feels authentic to me”

15:53Veronica
It really comes down to This is the character. What choice would this character make with the information that is had? Yeah Heather?

15:53HeatherLogas
where “me” is the extension of their character

15:53HeatherLogas
yes Veronica

15:54HeatherLogas
I mean “me” is their character. They are now thinking of their character as themselves.

15:54HeatherLogas
(but its not themself, it could still be a different personality then they themself have…)

15:54HeatherLogas
does that make sense Dan?

15:54Dan
Do you think this game is more Simulationist than Dramatist?

15:55Veronica
I see it as a good mix of both, but that is my personal view of what I have seen so far.

15:55malte kosian
not necessarily me but as the role I’m playing

15:55Dan
IMO, the story where I go exploring in the woods and immediately die lacks… arc :-)

15:55HeatherLogas
malte: Yes, exactly

15:55HeatherLogas
heh

15:55Dan
But that’s fine if it’s simulationist. This is a world with a dangerous forest

15:56HeatherLogas
right

15:56HeatherLogas
I _guess_ its more simulationist

15:56HeatherLogas
I am not sure I like these terms, honestly

15:56Dan
Forests don’t always have clear warning signs. Simulationists are notorious for total-party-kills. “Realistically, if your party attacked the tower that way, you’d all die. So, roll up new characters, everybody!”

15:56malte kosian
I think it is good drama or will be

15:57HeatherLogas
I mean, if simulationist means that you are presenting a consistent model of a world and then the question is how your character interacts with that world then yes, that probably describes what I am going for fairly well.

15:58Dan
I think that’s what simulationist means

15:58HeatherLogas
I do agree that there should be another chance to “turn back” before dying in the woods.

15:58malte kosian
I do not agree dan. But this will lead to an endless discussion about realism….

16:00HeatherLogas
Like Andrew (a storyteller in the vampire LARP) always said “Warn them, wound them, kill them”.

16:01HeatherLogas
Thats a good motto

16:01Dan
FYI if Callen doesn’t like you (or is dead) you get no warning

16:01HeatherLogas
oh about the woods? yeah, true

16:02HeatherLogas
I think that, as long as you are warned though, you should have the option to be an idiot. And get yourself killed for it.

16:03HeatherLogas
I guess to me the important thing is that it doesn’t feel unfair.

16:04HeatherLogas
even if it would be “realistic”

16:04Dan
Do you think the player should have warning if Callen doesn’t like them? If so, how?

16:04HeatherLogas
Well you can warn people that the woods look scary in multiple ways.

16:05HeatherLogas
Either from the description of it, the noises coming from it

16:05Dan
Should you wound them first?

16:05HeatherLogas
A big sign that says “Warning…DEATH is in this forest!”

16:05HeatherLogas
Yeah the wounding part is interesting in this game…you don’t have anything you can _lose_ really

16:05Veronica
Honestly a LACK of noise is more telling than there being a noise ;)

16:06HeatherLogas
That’s true Veronica, but not everyone knows that. :)

16:06HeatherLogas
Especially if you grew up in a city.

16:07HeatherLogas
I mean, you could wander into the woods and see a half-devoured carcass for example.

16:07HeatherLogas
That might make you want to get out of there

16:07Dan
That’s a pretty clear warning sign, and realistic.

16:08HeatherLogas
right

So with this chat in mind, I went ahead and did some tweaks and fixes to the opening scene. I agreed that the “insta-death in the woods” was unfair, so I now give the player one chance to realize something bad is in the forest, and let them go back to the road.

I still don’t feel like the choices the player makes in the mini-demo are “not meaningful”. I think the power of interactive storytelling comes from the player creating their own story. I think that’s what creates meaning.

I’m also not convinced about the “Threefold Model”. I think this model describes three types of people who aren’t very fun to role-play with: The ones who want to “win” (the gamists), the ones who want to be the center of attention (the dramatists) and the ones who annoy the heck out of me by interrupting the flow of a good role-playing session by arguing about what types of cannons are historically realistic for our fantasy pirate ship (the simulationists). I think the people who are fun to role play with and have as GM’s are the ones who are well balanced on these three fronts, and I also think that some other “traits” are missing from the picture all together.

My goal is to partner with the player to tell a good story in a world that feels consistent through choices that seem reasonable and fair.

So there you have it! Come to the next chat for more heated discussions about the nature of role playing and decision making in games! Or for something completely different!

Oh before I forget: Today I finished up the last scene of the game, and I made some edits and polishing to the “Road” scene.


A weekend treat plus live chat tomorrow!

Hi all! Here is the treat I promised:

A small section of the game to play!

You can set your personality trait levels in a very cheating fashion just to try out what happens when you represent different personalities in the game. Go ahead and give it a try! Then give some feedback on the forums. (Or in the comments below if you are forum-phobic).

Also, don’t forget about the live chat tomorrow at 2pm PST. Here is the link:

http://www.meebo.com/room/beforeyoucloseyoureyes/

See you there!


Oops.

Today went by super fast. I know I promised a treat today, but I ran out of time and tonight I actually — gasp — left my house. And did something social. And it was a party.

Whoa.

I will try to get you guys covered tomorrow. Sorry about that.


Dev Diary #24 — Another scene (nearly) done!

Yes, I finished another scene today. Well, it is almost finished. I have all the text written and I have the scene laid out. Now I need to go back and add in some codey bits to make sure everything comes together properly, and test for bugs.

This scene is the very end of the game. In this scene the player confronts — oh wait. That would be ruining it wouldn’t it?

Speaking of surprises, be sure to check in tomorrow. I will have a goody to share.

Also, tomorrow I will be meeting with someone who will potentially be helping me with PR for the game. I am SUPER excited. PR takes a whole lot of effort, but is super rewarding and fun. I wish I had been doing a better job at it while making the game so far. I am hoping he will be able to take some of that strain off a little. Tomorrow I will also be wrapping up this scene, and officially adding it to the “done” pile.

Although, in game development, the “done” pile should be really called the “I am finished messing with this until the next huge monkey wrench comes and makes me re-write the whole thing” pile. (One of the nice things about working for yourself — its easier to control the monkeys who throw the wrenches. Because most of them are you.)

Last thing for tonight — the live chat will be Sunday at 2pm. I will provide the link tomorrow.

Night night time.