NDH pre-release devlog #1

This week I worked on my test level a bit more, tuned up the controller, tried to improve readability of certain actions/scenarios, and had some thoughts about what's next in terms of level design, progression (ew), and uhh... Lore I guess (LOL).

New Stuff:
This week I added several new things to improve the overall play experience (I noticed a great number of problems after just a small amount of time watching other people play so that's good), as well as a number of smaller bug-fixes etc., which I'll put down in the changes section.

I can't remember if this was in last week's build (it's been a long week) but whatever: I added an extra spear/torch to the first gear (oh boy, that's uhh, a completely opaque sentence), which basically means that spears had to be re-coded and re-imagined slightly. Now you can have up to two out at a time (which greatly improves them as a tool for exploring your environment, which is uh, what they're for), when you throw a new spear and there are already two out, the oldest one disappears (which creates this really nice feeling that you're "stepping" through dark spaces, one torch at a time), and spears will automatically disappear after a fixed period of time (which I think is about 30 seconds at the moment? I messed around with a number of different times and I think 30 sec is about right).
This means you can do really dumb stuff like jump from spear to spear in the air infinitely, or climb up shear cliffs using the spears as platforms, but I'm not really concerned about that, in fact it lines up more with what I had in mind for this project anyway.

I made a number of additions to my test level, some of which have resulted in questions being raised about what kind of space/world/history I am implying, and how much I want to lean into that. My chief addition is a "bus"(?) stop at the opening of the level, where presumably the protagonist has just alighted from some mysterious vehicle. I've always been interested in the weird, slightly thin nature of public transport spaces, and have been playing with the idea of a cosmic/inter-dimensional transit system for a long time now, although I would never be comfortable describing it as such overtly in any of my work. It felt right to leave some hint as to the protagonists origins, and I think I will maybe scatter more stops throughout the world, and perhaps use them as a means for moving between spaces (which sounds nice because then I can focus on smaller, more focused vignettes over large, porous spaces).

While watching people play my game I noticed that they sometimes had trouble discerning if they were moving or not, and in once instance even decided that the only way to move was by using the teleporter. In some cases I think this was due to a lack of details in the environment by which to tell that one is moving, which I tried to fix previously by adding fog and ambient particle effects (which also helped with depth-perception), but because the starting area is so barren, even these things were not of much help. So I added another, subtler particle effect to the player, which creates little dust motes that trail behind the character when they are in motion. Because these are more consistently localised than the ambient particles I'd previously added, I hope that they will communicate player movement more succinctly. They also look nice.

As I mentioned: I fiddled around with the level design a little; I noticed that some objects were rendered hard to see (or hard to understand in relation to the rest of the scene) due to their colour, so I fixed a few instances of that. I also added a couple of new details to the opening waste area, just to make it slightly less barren and unreadable. 
Oh and I added lots of scaffolding to my tower; I like the idea that you are encountering a thing [in a space] that is not quite finished (appropriate for this project) or is being repaired; it adds to that idea that there is (was?) some kind of social infrastructure present to which you are not privy.

Fixed a bug where sometimes UI elements would stop spinning after they were selected.
Fixed an issue where the ambient particles weren't following the player around the world properly.

Tweaked the max/min angles allowed on the far-third-person camera.

Fixed an issue where, when in first person mode, selecting another gear which also supported first person mode would still reset the camera back to neutral rather than leave it where it was, which made climbing and looking around really awkward.

Added a "freeze" function to the camera script, so that when the player is teleported, rather than snap to where they are instantly, the camera will first look at where they have gone, and then catch up to them (time is slowed during this freeze period, so the player is still free to act quickly after teleporting). This communicates their motion more clearly, and hopefully reduces confusion (also it just looks better).

Oh yeah idk if this is a change or a new thing but for the demo I added a "safety net" script which checks for inputs from the player, and also checks their world position to make sure they haven't fallen off the map, and restarts the level if they have, or if they are still for too long (the latter will obviously not be in the final build, but it was very useful for environments where people are coming and going).

Coming Soon:
Uhhh... Well, I guess after the playtests this week I'll sit down and do some thinking about the world that I'm making and how things relate to things and whether or not I decide to include some kind of unearthly bus-system or an equivalent (trains/trams are nice too). I've also been considering adding "occupants": other people/creatures/??? that live ("live") in the world on a more permanent basis that you, O transient one. I've been thinking about how they would relate to the protagonist, whether or not they would be friendly, ambivalent or malicious, and how that would be communicated. It's all very up-in-the-air at the moment so I'm making no promises, but I like the idea a whole lot, and will explore it thoroughly before I make any sort of decision.

Man, I thought I hadn't done much this week but I guess I just spent a long time fixing stuff and thinkin' about stuff, and that's ok I guess. :)
I'm really pleased with how the controller is turning out; it's starting to feel really solid, and less quirky and fiddly than before, whilst still maintaining that slightly obtuse, unfamiliar quality that I like (at least I think so, but uhh,,, I play this all the time so I'm not really the best measure (hence: playtests)). I'm really excited to actually sit down and make some decisions that aren't limited by my technical abilities. It's always been something that I've been at least a little bit aware of: the fact that so much of my work is influenced by what I can't do. It's nice to be able to just,, think about what I'd like to include, in the confidence that I can (probably) pull it off.
I'm also keen to get some feedback! It's nice to have confidence in my own ability, but I really want to know what others think, even if I ignore a lot of it; for once I feel really proud to show people what I've made (even if they don't personally like it), and that's a good [new] feeling. :)

I really hope I can stay this focused and driven throughout the rest of the semester; I know I'll have a lot of work to do but I'm excited about most of it, and really keen to prove to myself that I can make something really cool, that I can look back at in the future and still enjoy.

ok that's all bye!

(lol, as I was recording the footage for this log I found and fixed another first-person camera bug so get ready to hear about that next week!)

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