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Author Topic: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on (NEW version 10-5-14)  (Read 5789 times)

Offline Sardonic

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At the beginning of this year, I needed to do something productive.  I couldn't get an idea out of my head.  I needed to make something, something with meaning.  For a long time before that, I had had ideas for games, but I never thought I could even begin to make one.  Then, I found inspiration, of a sort.  Looking at all the abject garbage games out there, rife with spelling errors, laughable gameplay, and bad graphics, I realized a simple truth: Any idiot can make a game.  I thought to myself "If these idiots can get as far as this, I, with a degree in IT can probably do better."
So I started working with Unity, learning it from whole cloth, and making models in Wings3d.  It took me a while for Unity and Wings to click, and there are still many things I don't know about the tools, but I have made enormous strides in my understanding since January.  I started with the introduction movie for the game, which is still admittedly pretty bad, but It will be revisited in time, I'm working on more important elements now.  I then made some basic events, and now, I have finished an ending.  It is not a game yet, but I do believe I can call it a proof of concept.
So what is it?
Right now I'm calling it a non-linear choose your own interactive fiction.  Though it's not strictly speaking 'fiction' either.  The inspiration for the events, places, and things from the game, for the most part, are things which did/did not/could have happened to me.  The game is roughly autobiographical with a lot of abstract elements.  A large part of the reason I started working on it was an attempt on my part to attempt to give meaning to many of the experiences of my past.  Though there are not many events yet.


Where is it?
The current build can be found here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7YO70ddhnRac1FMcnVoNElyWWs/view?usp=sharing

Controls
I am very pleased to report that this is not a garbage unity FPS game.  Though the camera and camera movement controls are roughly analogous to the spectator camera in source games.
WASD: Move camera in a direction
Right click: disable/enable mouselook (so you can click on things without moving the camera annoyingly)
Left click: interact
Esc: Menu
F1: Help

FAQ:
Sardonic, this is the gayest thing you have ever done, and with your history, that is saying something.
That's not really a question, but I realize that this is extremely unconventional and somewhat fruity.  Bear with me though, I am going somewhere with this.

Whats with the music?
Right now the music is mostly creative commons, and two tracks which are not.  As I am not currently planning on monetizing this game, this should not prove a problem.  If I get hit with a C/D on one of the two tracks, that's fine, I'll rip it out.  If for whatever reason, there's demand for it, and I look to make a paid version of this game, I will seek alternate music arrangements.

Why now, this clearly isn't done, or as presentable as it could be?
Recently I got accepted to graduate school, and I anticipate not having as much time to work on this as I had previously.  I wanted to put something out there, it's not great in its current state, but I wanted to give people an idea of what I'm working on, and maybe somebody will find it interesting.

You said there was an ending, how do I activate the ending?
Click the Sun.  This functionality will be rolled into the timer eventually, but for test purposes it's activated by a trigger on the sun.

What does the timer do?
Nothing, right now.  Eventually it will end the game when it runs out, but right now it's not connected to anything, so don't wait for it.

Kickstarter?
I don't really need money to make/complete the game.  What I need is time and finding the energy to work on it.  I'm not ruling it out entirely though, if there's significant demand for it, for a higher quality version of the game than I alone can provide, I would consider it.

Can I help?
Absolutely!  While I'm going to be the sole one working with the unity scenes for now, I'd be more than happy for support with models, music, scripting, and other assets.  I will put you in the credits.  Chax made the logo for example, he is the only other individual in there now.

Are you looking for feedback?
Yes, no holds barred.  Please let me know what needs improvement the most.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2014, 02:24:02 pm by Sardonic »

Offline lamuella

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2014, 04:34:51 pm »
OK, this is interesting, but incomplete enough that it's tough to review.

I don't hate the concept, although making it semiautobiographical makes it a little uncomfortable, as I feel I'm asking "what did Sard do?" rather than "what should I do?" at the various interactive questions.  Nonetheless they're interesting scenarios, you just need a lot more of them.

One thing I would say is that in a game like this (even if you're going for the arty non-game feeling of a Kentucky Route Zero or a Dear Esther) there needs to be a reason for being able to do anything you can do.  The reason doesn't have to be plot-crucial but it has to exist.  In what you have up so far I don't see a reason for (for example) being able to fly around the place.  I didn't see the reason for the endgame being triggered by clicking the sun.  Actually the first time I clicked on it I didn't realize it was the endgame until I found I couldn't leave it.

I also wondered: is there a compelling reason for this being non-linear?  I've written interactive fiction before, and one of the concepts I've had drilled into me in writing it is that actions have consequences.  If you give someone a choice then there needs to be something they get or don't get from that choice.  If that consequence is "arbitrary characteristic +10" then that only works if that arbitrary characteristic comes into play.  If I already know I'll end up graduating college regardless of the choices I made at elementary school or in applying to colleges, what reason do I have for taking these choices seriously?

This isn't to say that non-linear storytelling can't work, just that like any feature it needs a reason to exist.  How is the game changed by me digging a hole versus going to a different playground?  What's at the book club that means that it matters if I choose to read a book for it or not?  If the ending will always be the same (and doesn't seem to be linked to my choices) does anything I do matter?  Or is that the point?

Like I said, interesting stuff (and I'll leave aside discussion of the game engine side as I know literally nothing about it).  I can't draw a conclusion on the narrative content without seeing more of it though.

Offline Sardonic

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2014, 05:10:54 pm »
Wow!  Very detailed write up already, thank you!
OK, this is interesting, but incomplete enough that it's tough to review.

I don't hate the concept, although making it semiautobiographical makes it a little uncomfortable, as I feel I'm asking "what did Sard do?" rather than "what should I do?" at the various interactive questions.  Nonetheless they're interesting scenarios, you just need a lot more of them.
Any ideas on how to avoid making it a question of what I would do?  I'm going to work on more events next, I just really wanted to get the intro and an ending so if nothing else it can have a start and an end.
Quote
One thing I would say is that in a game like this (even if you're going for the arty non-game feeling of a Kentucky Route Zero or a Dear Esther) there needs to be a reason for being able to do anything you can do.  The reason doesn't have to be plot-crucial but it has to exist.  In what you have up so far I don't see a reason for (for example) being able to fly around the place.  I didn't see the reason for the endgame being triggered by clicking the sun.  Actually the first time I clicked on it I didn't realize it was the endgame until I found I couldn't leave it.
Right now the trigger is the sun only for testing purposes only, eventually it will occur only when the timer finishes, and be removed from the sun.  I know the scape and what exactly the nature of the place are are kind of vague right now, but I'm going to work on defining it  I don't want to go into too much detail though, as I do want to keep things somewhat mysterious.
Quote
I also wondered: is there a compelling reason for this being non-linear?  I've written interactive fiction before, and one of the concepts I've had drilled into me in writing it is that actions have consequences.  If you give someone a choice then there needs to be something they get or don't get from that choice.  If that consequence is "arbitrary characteristic +10" then that only works if that arbitrary characteristic comes into play.  If I already know I'll end up graduating college regardless of the choices I made at elementary school or in applying to colleges, what reason do I have for taking these choices seriously?
Yes, I'm working on having lots of visual effects and further events based on your choices.  This will be the big challenge of the game.  Having it non-linear and with some randomness should give it some replay value.  Making choices matter is very much something I'm going to be trying to do.  What you see now is very basic, there's only one dependance, and that's the book group one off the apartment, and that's just completing it.  Others will branch off different choices.  The university apply/don't apply choice with the visual effect is part of what I'm aiming for.

Quote
This isn't to say that non-linear storytelling can't work, just that like any feature it needs a reason to exist.  How is the game changed by me digging a hole versus going to a different playground?  What's at the book club that means that it matters if I choose to read a book for it or not?  If the ending will always be the same (and doesn't seem to be linked to my choices) does anything I do matter?  Or is that the point?
The ending will be driven by the count of points at the end.  The choices aren't terribly meaningful or impaction yet, but again, I will work on them.
Quote
Like I said, interesting stuff (and I'll leave aside discussion of the game engine side as I know literally nothing about it).  I can't draw a conclusion on the narrative content without seeing more of it though.
Fair enough, thank you for your appraisal as it is now.  I do hope that you'll give it another look when there's more content.

Offline nivdes

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2014, 08:26:03 pm »
one of those looks like a 3d goatse


Offline mrwuss

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2014, 08:34:23 pm »
platform master 2.0


Offline Aesculus

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2014, 11:07:20 pm »
Are you supposed to be able to noclip into everything but the floor?

Offline Sardonic

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2014, 11:40:04 pm »
Are you supposed to be able to noclip into everything but the floor?

Currently that's the only constraint I have in place - the floor.  I can look into figuring out how to make the camera collide with objects if people think that it would enhance the experience.  It's something that I haven't looked into yet.

Offline Chief Savage Man

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2014, 09:58:59 am »
i think you should avoid having choice text be so obviously judgmental like the book club one

the choices don't really mean much if the text itself is encouraging you so plainly to make it a certain way

Offline Comrade Milton

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2014, 11:21:21 am »
i think you should put in a goatse easteregg. :D


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Offline mrwuss

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2014, 11:49:53 am »
i want to look into the depths of a man's ass in a video game : stupid huge grin :


Offline Sardonic

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2014, 12:52:54 pm »
i think you should avoid having choice text be so obviously judgmental like the book club one

the choices don't really mean much if the text itself is encouraging you so plainly to make it a certain way

Now I see where you're coming from, but the way that particular event is designed is that there is an explicit right/wrong choice to be made there, with no random element.  If I turn the wording too neutral, couldn't that make it something of a gotcha?

Also we'll see about an implied goatse easter egg :argh:

Offline CriminallyStylish

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2014, 04:26:11 pm »
When the game loaded those pumping square-shaped penises at the end, my game lags like hell.

Also, dude you should have just asked that book-girl out for a coffee or something, YOU DONT NEED NO REASON MAAAN!!

Offline Sardonic

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2014, 05:22:07 pm »
When the game loaded those pumping square-shaped penises at the end, my game lags like hell.

Also, dude you should have just asked that book-girl out for a coffee or something, YOU DONT NEED NO REASON MAAAN!!
She has a fiancee. :colbert:

Also yeah I know the performance issue caused by the wave in the ending, I'm open to ideas in reducing that, and there are a few things I can try that might help in the next version.

Offline dbcooper

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2014, 06:10:46 pm »
Wall of text ahoy.

Pros:
  • Better than Depression Quest
  • I like the art style
  • The control scheme is sufficient and generally responsive (minus instances of lag)
  • The music [I heard] is complimentary (or at least not a distraction)
  • Interesting idea.  I think it's more immersive (if you will) than the typical hyperlink/text on page style of IF

Cons:
  • Next button clickable area should be larger--the bounding box on major/minor events is quite large and switching back to more-precise text clicking was mildly annoying
  • 2nd-ing the time ordering of events.  I'm not sure if it's a good idea to force or suggest an ordering of the choices but an elementary-school event after college application event makes the choices just seem arbitrary
  • Regarding leading questions: What comes to mind is the need to carefully construct statistical survey questions to not influence the responses.  E.g., Do you support pro-life legislation or do you support killing innocent children?

Questions:
  • Are you asking the questions while implying future knowledge (or regret) that you didn't have at the time you originally made your choice?  Perhaps chosing the "wrong" thing imparts the lesson learned information in addition to the point penalties
  • Kinda gutsy using your own life experiences as content for the game.  I don't recommend sharing too much with random people on the Internet or at least feel free to alter/create/fabricate other events
  • Are there random elements/outcomes for the choices?  I noticed a different outcome on the private college application but I don't know what influenced that (PRNG, current stats, etc.)
  • Do stats influence the appearance of events or previous outcomes cause other events to appear?

:rolleyes: Suggestions/Ideas :rolleyes:
  • Select a subset of major/minor elements from a larger pool to add an element of randomness to each run?
  • Selecting a major event causes (supporting) minor events to pop up nearby?  Kind of like sidequests related to a larger quest in some geographical area
  • If you want to suggest a time-ordering of events but not force the player to go in order, you could reward proper ordering (more points) or use graphic effects to suggest ordering (brighter event triggers for the now point in the timeline, dimmer triggers for future/past events)




Offline Sardonic

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Re: Soulscape: that thing Sardonic has been working on
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2014, 10:24:44 am »

    • Next button clickable area should be larger--the bounding box on major/minor events is quite large and switching back to more-precise text clicking was mildly annoying
    This is something I should be able to look into, might be able to make the clickable area not tied directly to the text only, just a matter of figuring out how.
    Quote
    • 2nd-ing the time ordering of events.  I'm not sure if it's a good idea to force or suggest an ordering of the choices but an elementary-school event after college application event makes the choices just seem arbitrary
    I'll admit, it does, but having everything reasonably accessible at the start will be important once I fill up the game with more content than 30 minutes allows interaction with, I wouldn't want people to have to grind through whole other arcs before digging into a slice.
    Quote
    • Regarding leading questions: What comes to mind is the need to carefully construct statistical survey questions to not influence the responses.  E.g., Do you support pro-life legislation or do you support killing innocent children?
    I understand, and I'm going to try to avoid extremes, but I still am concerned that having something coded to unambiguously have a right and wrong answer have an ambiguous question might be problematic too.  Unless that is something that you think people would not mind as much as the question's wording?
    Quote
    Questions:
    • Are you asking the questions while implying future knowledge (or regret) that you didn't have at the time you originally made your choice?  Perhaps chosing the "wrong" thing imparts the lesson learned information in addition to the point penalties
    One of the things that I'm going to try to convey with the game is that all of the game is happening
    Spoiler (hover to show)

    It is my intention to have bad choices end in additional point gain though, if not immediately, than eventually, and more events should flesh out what exactly the points consist of, though I do like keeping that roughly vague.

    Quote
    • Kinda gutsy using your own life experiences as content for the game.  I don't recommend sharing too much with random people on the Internet or at least feel free to alter/create/fabricate other events
    I'm not going to doxx anybody to be sure, or put in anything too out there.  I do think that there's a lot of content though that lends itself to this kind of thing though.  Some of the slightly more specific events I will run by people before I do anything with them.
    Quote
    • Are there random elements/outcomes for the choices?  I noticed a different outcome on the private college application but I don't know what influenced that (PRNG, current stats, etc.)
    Some yes, some no.  It's literally just a random number vs a threshold check for the ones that do have multiple options.  I'm still experimenting with it but I do think it's important to have that random factor.
    Quote
    • Do stats influence the appearance of events or previous outcomes cause other events to appear?
    None of the events currently in there, but there will be.  Especially events specific to a significantly negative point value.
    Quote
    :rolleyes: Suggestions/Ideas :rolleyes:
    • Select a subset of major/minor elements from a larger pool to add an element of randomness to each run?
    This is actually one of the things I'm going to experiment with, having a stable of events, and having two picked for each kind of thing.  It might be a bit beyond my scope right now, but I do intend to have that much randomness in certain areas.
    Quote
    • Selecting a major event causes (supporting) minor events to pop up nearby?  Kind of like sidequests related to a larger quest in some geographical area
    This is what I'm going for with the apartment/book club thing.  the minor event sidequests won't be too tied to the main quest of the area, many may just be there because it's the appropriate time period.  I'll be experimenting with this though.
    Quote
    • If you want to suggest a time-ordering of events but not force the player to go in order, you could reward proper ordering (more points) or use graphic effects to suggest ordering (brighter event triggers for the now point in the timeline, dimmer triggers for future/past events)
    In a sense, this is what I was going for with the pre-k event building flickering, because it is such a distant memory.  I'll have to experiment with more obvious tells though.

    Thank you for the write up!  I do hope you'll try it again when there is more meat to it.[/list]
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