I haven’t written a blog post in a bit; much of the glamorous work of Adding Exciting Stuff to the game has now fallen to Mr. Baumgart and his motley crew, while the programming department scuttles about behind the scenes doing things which are less obvious to the general public. Most of what I’ve done in the past few weeks has been a series of very small polish-y things. They’re interesting, and every time something goes in it makes the game better, but it doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to a glamorous blog post.
A few examples of polish-y things:
- Fixing all the jumps in the building module placer and creator, so that building modules actually go where you want them to. (This annoyed every single journalist at GDC.) This was mainly caused by things, uh, disagreeing with other things.
- Hooking up support for module animations to play when people are working, or when modules are in use. Now people correctly saw planks and things on carpentry workbenches, run power saws, admire fine bookcases, etc., etc.
- Overhauling farming so that it works correctly and reliably. Previously, in order for a farm to work, overseers would have to show up at the farm and run it. Now, the farm runs itself and the overseers are forced to work next to their little minions. Mwahahahah!
- In the same vein, a lot of the how-modules-are-installed work got shuffled around to use work crews appropriately.
Adding specific lists of module access points to each module. This way, we can actually offer multiple ways to access a power saw, and then we won’t let you use a power saw with all the module access points restricted.
- Alerts! Okay, these are new. We now put up little Alert boxes on the right hand side of the screen when a particularly significant event happens (“Carpentry Workshop Complete”, “Bronzewick Thadderson Bludgeoned by Cultist”)
- New workshop panels, finally, with pretty little icons!
- Making it so that the middle mouse wheel still rotates and zooms the map when drawing a farm, and a million other little things with about this level of excitement.
- Compressing our game’s spatial dictionary structure (the thing that stores where everything is in every way) so that uninteresting and boring squares don’t take up memory, and adding clarifying tags for particular squares (“door”, for instance, to indicate where a door is so that people won’t sleep in it or choose it as a location to hang out and have conversations in), and a million pathfinding fixes;
- Moving the Dredmor launcher into Clockwork Empires so people can do useful things like choose a video mode, because Why Not?
… and the list goes on. There’s just a huge, huge, huge amount of work that is required to take a thing from “crudely functional”, through “rudely functional” through polished, and it’s an iterative process. It’s not glamorous – it usually consists of you figuring out what didn’t work the last time you did something, and then redoing it (often, redrawing everything in the process.)
This ties in a lot with last week’s blog by David, I guess: we sort of have three routes on the programming side as we approach early access: core functionality (now down to save games, my eternal nemesis; some last bits of networking, which are waiting for Ryan to finish A Thing; and a certain amount of flotsam and jetsam), adding as much new content as we can add, balance, and get stable right now; and polish, polish, polish, polish, polish. This is part of making a game that’s actually fun that isn’t talked about much – I think I’ve used stickiness as a metaphor before here, but perhaps friction is more accurate today. Friction, between the user and the game, is what causes people to not enjoy playing the game; once the friction is gone, people can figure out what’s actually there. Now that we’ve removed a bunch of friction, the game is better and getting more and more fun. People are, I think, having a good time.
When do I get to have one of those screaming face icons, David?