It’s all in the details

So my last post talked about a lot of the stuff I had finished off, as well as the things I still had left to complete. I also spent a little while discussing some of the changes I’ve made in my ability to program, as well as a few of the design choices I’ve made over the course of the game. Today, I wanted to expand a little more on something else I’ve noticed over the past week or so, as well as give another (kind of big) update on everything I’ve completed.

Starting with the update: my last update tailed off with my (mostly) finished cutscenes, as well as a plan to head into boss fights and get that entire system working. I never completed that, at all. I got the system set up and allowed myself to actually activate a boss fight correctly, as well as implemented that code that allows me to create a boss, but I never actually got around to designing each of the bosses. Instead, I left that in its simple form for now, as I want to finish off the entire boss fighting system last. That gives me the ability to not only play test my entire battle system, but also the ability to bug fix, more or less at the same time. Since I want to be able to play test, it also meant I needed to set up just about everything else first. With that in mind, I got to work. I first worked on the experience/leveling system. That involved correctly leveling up my characters as they gained experience from battles, as well as correctly applying new abilities when they became available and new talents as they were gained. After that, I set up the gold system, allowing players to actually gain gold as they defeated enemies. Shops came up after that, although it kind of fell into a two part mix – I set up the basic system initially, before really figuring out the items I wanted to implement into the game (as I needed to know all of them to be able to define prices for selling those items). So, anyway, I knocked that first, basic part out then took a step back to look at what I had left to do – this led to the list I’m currently tallying in my notebook. It started out with 11 things, and I’ve been slowly knocking each one out since then. Each time I seem to finish one, though, I find yet another thing I need to add to the list – which has reached its 22nd item. Of those 22 things, though, I’ve finished 1 and 2 (the title and help screens, although I want to make a few adjustments to both, which are noted later), 4 (typing text out when chatting with NPC’s), 5 (defining when certain things can be opened), 8 (defining limiting variables that prevent the player from progressing past points before they’re supposed to), 9 (shops), 10 (the last set of scene backgrounds, the four, 5 level towers in the castle scene), 14 (fixing some text), 18 (displaying gold while shopping), and, finally, 20 and 21 (eliminating an enormous part of redundant code). This leaves me with 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 22. The gist of most of them is re-working the menu system (which needs a huge overhaul), play testing the battle system and finishing off the rest of the cutscenes (basically an intro scene and the last 4-5 scenes, essentially concluding scenes). So, anyway, that’s a bunch of relatively boring jargon for anyone who actually wanted to read all of that. To the more interesting part!

At this point, I want to discuss my attention to detail. When I first started working on this, I spent some time playing some of my favorite games to give myself some ideas about how to set up my game. Obviously I didn’t want to take everything, but some baseline things would give me some good info on where I should start. At the time I didn’t really pay attention to a lot of the little things in the game – box placement in Uncharted, scene transitions in Pokemon, menu work in Fire Emblem, etc. Now, however, I’ve begun to notice all these little things in my game that need to be fixed. For instance, I used to have the text simply appear on the screen while chatting – now I have it type out across the screen, as if the NPC were actually talking. It’s little things like that – small details that appear insignificant initially (or at least they did to me) – that I think make games fantastic. Crisp, clear transitions, ease of use, the way a player navigates through a menu, how the player moves around the map, the interactions with npc’s – these little things are so integral to the fluidity of a game, and, when done well, are hardly even noticed. That’s something I’ve been striving for and is a large part of why I keep adding things to my list – I want the details to be just right.

The coolest thing is that I look at games now completely differently. I went to play Fire Emblem just the other day, and I was noticing things like the initial starting menu and how a player actually navigates through it or how the menu transitions from one place to the next. I spent hours playing the game, but I never could have actually described what was going on in the menu. I just used it and completely ignored how it actually functioned. That recognition, I think, is a huge part of what is making me a better designer.

Well, that about covers it. Hopefully my next update is about how awesome play testing is going and how fantastic all my shit is. Hopefully. Until next time!