Things have been a bit crazy, and I unfortunately haven’t been in a position where I can work on my game full-time. Without going into detail, my hope is that in a month or just over a month I’ll be settled down and can have a routine. The problem has been as much a lack of free time as it has been a lack of consistent environment; it’s really hard for me to treat development seriously when I’m not in one place long enough to develop a routine.
But I’ve been chipping away at it as much as I can. Though I don’t feel comfortable at this point showing the progress I’ve made, I can at least talk about it. For each new post, I’ll give a compact description of something I’ve done or am doing, and more importantly, what I think it will add to the game.
For this update, it’s character AI.
Why Am I Dead occupies a weird space in design. It plays out like a mystery-adventure, but uses the mechanics of RPGs for interaction. Because of the former influence, the game will take place in a very confined area that the player becomes intimately familiar with. Because of the latter influence, all objects and characters must be visible whenever you’re in their vicinity (unlike in adventure games such as Hotel Dusk, where characters often pop in and out only when the story demands it).
For a longer sequel to Why Am I Dead, this means you’ll be seeing the same rooms and the same people a lot. You’ll get a feel for the whole space. Partially in order to avoid the feeling of claustrophobia, and partially to create the impression that you’re in a livable environment, I decided that the characters would have to be very proactive regarding where they are at any given moment.
That is to say, having completely static characters that only move when you control them won’t cut it for a larger cast and a longer game. The characters will all have to move on their own, and not in the way they do for RPGs (randomly and aimlessly); they will move around the ship in routines, and even when you aren’t present. During different parts of the story, they’ll be in different areas depending on what’s going on.
On the plus side, this means:
- Characters won’t be stuck in weird poses for the whole game. It would break immersion if several days pass in the story but you find that two characters were apparently staring at each other the whole time, because that was how they were when you left them.
- The setting is more convincing. Towards the beginning of one story day, maybe people are getting breakfast in the diner. Towards the end, most are probably back in their rooms. Maybe someone is taking in the night sky outside. You don’t just see spaces, you see them being used.
- More opportunities for character insight. Mannerisms can be added to characters’ movements; frenetic pacing when a character is stressed, for instance. It might also say something if a characters is just inside their room all the time, or if they’re always walking around everywhere.
And on the negative side:
- LOGISTICS. Adding these features is relatively easy, and already works for the most part. Getting them to work as intended will take time. I imagine traffic jams in hallways and people dry-humping each other all over the place for a while.
- If I overdo it, finding a character that you want to possess could be frustrating. This is a matter of making characters’ movements intuitive and scaled to how much you’ll probably need to control them at the point you’re in. Given the relatively small environment though, this shouldn’t be a huge issue.
- If I underdo it, I could hit an uncanny valley of AI, a la The Truman Show.
Like I said, this is already mostly implemented, as it was one of the first things I started working on. Getting it to work smoothly will be a challenge, but I think it will add a tremendous amount of personality to the game.