Thursday, 2 March 2017

Off Grid sprint update 02.03.2017 - A little *more* conversation

A little more conversation, a little more action, please!

Somebody must have been listening to a little Elvis Presley around here. Are you dancing in your seat a little bit? We are! :P

Annnnnnyway - a merry March to you!  We’ve had a good February, full of all kinds of progress, on systems, content, and biz dev, so without further ado, here’s our action:

Finishing the city map

There were few small details we wanted to do on this pass of the city map scene left for this sprint:

First, what would a map be without proper markers? We replaced the placeholder ones featured in last dev blog post with new ones, this time drawn on the UI side. Not only do they look cleaner, but also this means we can more easily switch markers for different missions; for example, to differentiate between side quests, or different story lines and content coming from different mods.

…and then, we added support for multiple missions taking place in the same location, or in same city district. Just because it seemed like a good idea. We’ll still need to add the UI stuff for selecting between the missions if they are available at the same time, but on the code side, things are already in place.

Conversation skills

Conversations!  No more endless spam of SMS messages, we actually want the player to take part in the conversations and have options and everything! So, we are converting the current SMS system into instant messaging-style conversations, that can then hook up with our mission system and rest of the Lua modding APIs for all your branching storyline needs. There are some really nice conversation systems available already (check out Dialogue System for Unity and Ink), but as we need it to work nicely with our data & network simulations, and also all the Lua scripting and modding we have already in place, building our own system seemed like the best option. So, fair amount of effort in this sprint went into figuring out all the requirements for building it, and all the other systems in the game that are affected and will need to be changed, and designing how we can get everything together.

Now we have enough of a plan to start putting things together, the UI for conversations is already built, so in the next sprint we’ll just try to get the actual system built and hopefully even convert some of our existing systems & levels to work with it. No spoilers, though, you’ll have to wait till next month for more details and pics!

Saving Face

This sprint we also started work on our save system.  We’re currently planning on saving things like the users’ overarching mission progress, the players’ inventory, and if the save takes place in a mission, we’re currently saving the current objective to attempt to re-load state as best as we can.

This task also included setting up steam cloud saves!

Propping up our content

As we’ve mentioned quite a few times
in these sprints, there’s been an ongoing effort to move all of our existing 3D models to vertex colours. This sprint we’ve finally completed our last batch, this required converting over 100+ props to vertex colours as well as fixing up things like origins, pivots, uvs and naming conventions! We’re certainly glad to see the majority of the fix ups behind us now.

We’rebig proponents of open source and have decided to release the little blender script we’ve been using for vertex colour conversion:

It’s only a tiny script, but hopefully it helps out some other devs :)

Fashion Icons

For ease of use we’ve added some new custom gizmo icons to our LevelKit.
The icons depend on the type of mission objects, this gives you a really nice idea of what interactions you’re looking at from just a glance.

New Levels

We’ve been blocking out some new levels to place all those perfectly vertex coloured props in too. There’s not a huge amount we can say about this without giving away any spoilers but the we have been working on the main character’s workplace, and a couple of other interesting locations. It’s been fun sketching these out - how many times have you fantasized about hacking all the devices around your office? It turns out there are a lot of devices sucking data up in the rooms we spend 8 hours a day in.

New Character

We got a new character walking around the game and making life difficult for the player character. But she’s easily socially engineered so no need to worry too much yet :)

Biz dev and production

The core of running an indie games studio is so reliant on a huge amount of planning, forecasting and documentation that is is hard to over state, and yet because it is not the sexiest part of the indie dev job description, it gets talked about much less proportionally. You would almost be mistaken for thinking indies don’t have to deal with paperwork, the only p’s we deal with are prototype phases and polish passes. Well with Off Grid’s production really gaining momentum, a little extra planning can go a long way.  Bolstered by the fact that we have some interesting opportunities for partners to help us release and market the game on the horizon, it has been a good time to drill down into what we expect to see evolving out of the game over the next 6-12 months. We have tried to share our production process and how we use both Trello and JIRA, but as for the deeper nitty gritty of how a developer plans out the development of a game, it has to remain confidential for obvious reasons. In the future, we’d like to be able to do a detailed post mortem where we share some of the documents we put together and how we assess balancing our work. For now you’ll just have to trust us that it is time consuming and a real cognitive work out, but oh so worth the effort!

That’s all for now!

We have shifted into running month long sprints and therefore have more consistent, monthly blog posts in preparation a similar structure when the game is in early access. There should be some meaty updates and screen shots to share next time, so stay tuned!


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