• Mike

MA Game Design: Finished Documents and Further Prototyping

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Its another frighteningly fast update! The mountain of writing has been chipped down quite a bit, just in time for the final stretch! (While also cutting it close mind). Let's get started!

 

Done Diddly Done Documents


First up, the screenplays are done! Hooray! Both the characters have their content written up to the moment when the onboarding process begins, or in layman's terms, when the introduction to the gameplay would start. The original plan was to end the screenplays after the introduction to the gameplay mechanics was completed, but in the interest of optimizing my time, I've cut it short so that I can focus on the other documents at hand.


Rather than a lengthy explanation, here are the other documents which have been finished...:

  • Character Bios

  • Case / Level Overviews

…and here are the ones which are almost ready:

  • Game Design Document

  • Written Report

Slight detours were made a number of times when I was writing out the GDD where I ended up making more graphical artefacts to help convey my explanations a little nicer. It was a mix of diagrams, level maps, icons, and visual mock-ups of complete scenes that took up some additional time, but I think they will be worth it (I live in hope, at least). Since I am likely going to struggle to finish a prototype to the same standards as I have done in the undergrad (and since this is a design masters, not a science one), providing more visual content in the design document should be the wiser move. Which leads quite nicely into the next topic -

 

Arcweave Prototyping


So, in my mind, there are 3 items that have been finished thus far which form the prototype. 2 of these are the screenplays, with the third being the Arcweave prototype. The set up took some time but I am happy with how it turned out (considering its not a super snazzy prototype either, but has the intended functionality). I'll make a new page for the project later on, but if you'd like to try it out, the link for it can be found here:


Arcweave Prototype Link

And since this is ready for showing, let's do a deep dive! I'll start with Allan's route, which follows the interactive screenplay:

Arcweave prototype: Allan's Complete Route

In summary, each box is an element that contains text, images, and details on the characters who "live there" (in our case, the ones in the scene). At the end of each element during runtime is a button to take you to the next element. Sometimes it will say "Next" or say the name of a specific action, such as "Move To: XX". This also extends to mimic certain mechanics that would be in the game. See all the clumps of coloured elements that are below one of the blue boxes? Those represent choices you will have in the game!


Now this is kinda hard to see, so we got to enhance!

Allan's Gameplay Mechanics

The colours here represent the following actions you would do in the game:

  • Red: investigate a scene

  • Green: talk to the NPC in the scene

  • Purple: present evidence or clues found to the NPC in the scene

Something important to note is that, at this particular point, the player controlling Allan can only progress after they have spoken to the NPC and received some key items. Before this, they will only have 2 options to choose from: talking to the NPC or examining the location. Arcweave has a very helpful feature where you can include code inside your elements. So, if we enhance again -


Adding global variables into Arcweave

We can see that this element contains some code. In it, we provide a different dialogue output to the player depending on if they have all their equipment or not. The first time you choose this option, you will see the dialogue in the top half of this box. Afterwards, the global variable

allHasEquipment

is set to true. If you go back and click on this option again, you will only see the dialogue in the bottom of the image.


With this triggered, the player now can progress to a new element that provides them with 2 new options:

With all items acquired, the player gets access to new gameplay mechanics

They can now either present these items to the NPC or move to the next location to continue the story.


A similar set up has been done for Ace, the difference being that they must exhaust all dialogue options in order to move forward. Here, there are a few global variables which get set to "true" after the dialogue option has been accessed once:

Arcweave prototype: Ace must view all dialogue options to progress

Once all of these variables have been set to true, Ace can continue into the story.

Ace may continue if all variables are set to true

At the end of both routes, the player is taken back to the main screen where they can choose to play as the other character and see his route!

 

Unity Prototyping


Now, since I would like to have a nicer looking prototype that contains more features which I can control, I had a go at exporting the Arcweave content into a JSON file and bringing that into Unity. Luckily, Arcweave have a package on the Unity Asset store to handle the bulk of the job, so after installing the package and setting the project up, I hit play, aaaaand...


Its kinda broken.


For the most part, its not that terrible, but when the issues happen, they happen fairly badly. Things like text not fully displaying, buttons not quite working (or even showing the right options), and some troubles with starting the route correctly are among the issues. I will investigate and see if I can resolve these on my own, but I have reached out to the Arcweave devs to get some proper assistance with fixing this, since I cannot see where the problem lies. I'll show what the title screen looks like when it does work, since you can gauge an idea for the look and feel of the project that way:

And just for good measure, here's what it looks like with characters in the scene:

Hopefully a fix will be found for the issues mentioned so that it can also be submitted as part of the prototype!

 

Closing Thoughts


Well, its been nice to get something into Unity, even if its not doing so great! A lot of the additional writing has also been done, but there is still quite a bit left to do for the main written documents (the GDD and report). I'm hesitant to submit artefacts that are, well, broken, so I might try going back to the original plan of combining Inky and Unity now that I have the screenplays to bring into Inky. I'll do this last once the main docs are all sorted out, since those are of greater importance here.


Maybe I'll end up with something half decent by the end that people can play, who knows! We can only hope and pray to RNG Jesus.


Anyway, I'm gonna crash, my fingers are super worn out. So, thanks for reading through this journey, maybe there will be one more post - we shall see! If not, then good bye and see you next time :)

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