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Thursday, February 25, 2016

It occurs to me I should have been posting my We Happy Few Updates here, too. Here's February 12. You can find the rest using the handy We Happy Few tag.


The other day a narrative designer friend o’mine who works at a Big Studio tweeted, “Pro tip: if you design a narrative/audio heavy feature, loop them in early so they can spot potential problems before they happen”.

Compulsion is a strange beast - something in between a 4 person indie team and a 100-500 person AAA team.

What we get in return is that the team is small enough that everyone talks to everybody. At least, I talk to everybody.

I want this on a t-shirt, don't you?
For example, Mike is designing in-game tips. How do you pick up a body? How do you throw one? An in-game tip can throw you out of the game world if it’s written in gamer terminology; on the other hand, if it’s not clear, it’s useless as a tip. So I have to figure out how to rephrase the tip so that it sounds like our world.

Meanwhile, Valentino is building soundscapes for the introduction. There’s a critical flashback to a traumatic event. He’d like to know: what does that sound like? I’ve already recorded and edited the dialog, but what else do we hear? There’s a train. Do we hear steam building? A whistle? A bell? Crowd walla?

Meanwhile, there’s an encounter where you can find a note on a bobby describing you. Well, it takes a level designer two seconds to write that. It sends me down a rabbit hole. Who’s writing the note? What tone is it? Is it officious? Are they scared of you? Do they want the bobbies to follow normal procedure? What is it? Or do they want the bobbies to take care of you by any means necessary?

Meanwhile, David is working on combat buffs. I feel an urgency to rewrite the combat buffs into the voice of the game world, to strengthen your immersion in it. Oh, and, sometimes we want both the player character and the NPC’s to react when these buffs take effect. So those lines of dialog get added to my dialog list, and I start pestering our sound guys to set up another recording session.

And since I’m recording and editing all sorts of cutscene dialog and gameplay barks and encounter dialog... I have to keep after the sound guys to make sure none of it gets lost along the way.

And, there is a Very Important Article that you’ll read in-game that wasn’t clear enough. So I rewrote it, and that meant poor Whitney had to throw out her old painting and make a new one. And then the advertisements were wrong for the date, so we had to fix that. In this game, the advertisements look like throwaways, but they’re important lore, and they’ve got to not only be consistent with our lore, but be revelatory of it.

Oh, and, just now, one of our programmers complained that a Pythonesque object description I wrote turned out to be too long for the UI. It doesn’t take long to do each little thing; but they do all require thought.

In all this, of course, I’m piling up a bit of work for myself. Anything specific to Arthur I’ll have to redo, or replace, for Girl With Needle or the Mad Scotsman. They don’t just have different barks. Anywhere Arthur has a journal entry after an encounter, I’m going to have to rewrite the entry in the other PC’s voice.

This is an ambitious game for its narrative. It would be much easier for me to write generically. The more generic a bark (“Go go go!”), the more often the player can hear it without getting irritated. I’m writing distinctive barks. Hopefully we’ve got enough so they won’t get old. Let me know if they do get old.

And then, there are always the recording sessions and the cutscenes. I can’t tell you what amazing actor I recorded last Thursday, or what role she plays, because it’s all a Big Secret. But the animators are slowly chewing their way through several playthroughs worth of cutscenes. Tuesday and Wednesday I put together a cutscene for the Mad Scotsman’s playthrough; Vincent Schneider’s been storyboarding it since. I also spent a bit of time inserting new dialog in old cutscenes; sometimes there’s a line that doesn’t get recorded, or a brilliant idea that we have after the recording session, and I’ve got to wait until my next session to get it recorded. (Recording with union actors is crucial, but Not Cheap.)

It is a miracle to me that I haven’t fallen behind. Sometimes I wonder if it would be the end of the world if I, you know, left the text of the combat buffs alone; so what if they’re a bit gamey? But I count myself blessed to be in a team where I have the privilege of meddling like that.

Find the rest of the team's update on our Kickstarter page.
Here's the previous update.

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