You Defeated the Boss!

Some pretty good news this time around!

Never change, Ferdinand.
This is Art with a capital A, folks.

Where should I start?  Hmm, oh yeah – maybe with the fact that my game Why Am I Dead At Sea is basically done.

It’s kinda insane.  I almost don’t believe it.  After working on it for so long, and continuously pushing the finish line further and further back, you kind of forget that finishing is even possible.  I’ve gotten so used to adding things to Why Am I Dead At Sea, that the thought of not adding another thing to it just seems crazy.  There’s something I’m missing, right?

Well…Not really.  All the alternate endings are finished.  The epilogues too.  The dialogue in the game has been rewritten three times over.  I must’ve redone the menus half a dozen times.  There’s even controller support!

This realization comes with two feelings – relief, but also anxiety.  When I admit that the game is finished, I start to panic because a part of me still wants it to be better.  Surely there’s other things I can do to improve it even more, just that little bit extra that will put it over the top, right?  Imagine how much better the game could be, if I’d only add ______ .

The bottom line is, I will be moving forward with distribution/marketing on the basis that the game is in fact complete.  Yeah, at the same time I will also be making small tweaks here and there, if only to satiate a compulsion to tweak.  But don’t worry, I can stop whenever I want to.

…Moving on.


 

SteamworksIsAGo
woah

I’ve gotten all incorporated and everything, and now I can work on putting my game on Steam!  Well, technically it’s already on Steam, but there several extra things I need to do.  Namely, I want to implement Steam cloud saves, achievements, and trading cards, and make sure everything is working smoothly with both Windows and Mac downloads.  It’s a bit hard to say how long this will take, but progress has been very smooth so far.

Speaking of all that, this post is doubling as a bit of a recruiting call.  You see, I want a final wave of testing with a larger group before the game goes public, and I also need to test and make sure the game is actually working with all these Steam features.  That means I need some new testers!

If you want to get the game a bit earlier than everyone else, you want to get it for free, but most importantly if you want to help a solo developer in their hour of need, please email me at “pmcgrath@peltastdesign.com”.  Things to include in your email (for fun, but also so I know you’re serious about testing):

1 ) The operating system you run / will play the game on

2 ) Where you originally heard about Why Am I Dead At Sea

3 ) If you played the original Why Am I Dead – who do you think was the serial killer?

The last time I made a call for volunteer testers I was really impressed by how many people responded, and how dedicated many of them have been.  If you volunteered before and I didn’t get back to you, I apologize – but also know that this test phase will require much more people, so feel free to volunteer again!


 

Thanks in advance to any volunteers!  Next blog update I may be releaseing a date of some import.

About Multiple Endings

I’ve been trying to put together a post focusing on the time where I was less active on the blog/online, and as a bit of an overview for the past year…but writing it out in a way that fits the nature of this blog has been difficult.  It’s a lot of material, so it’s a bit hard to decide how to organize it, and it’s a bit of a departure from game development.  Meanwhile, the days keep ticking away, so I thought I’d give an update on the game just to get a post out.


I’ve been more active than ever in development, and things are moving along quite well.  After taking a lot of time over the past several months to update visuals, add support for game options/configurations, and work on Rebirth, I’ve returned to filling out the game’s story.  Over the past month I’ve added in all of the art, dialogue, and scripting for the game’s story, all the way up to the ending.

The ending is done?!

Well.  One of them.  As I’ve opted to have multiple endings for Why Am I Dead At Sea, I’ll have to finish the “ending” to the game several times before I can say that it’s actually been completed.  However, what I have finished is the basic framework that the separate endings switch off from, which means that the remaining work is a bit simpler than what I’ve already done.

Given that all of this progress takes place at the game’s finale, it’s hard to show things I’ve worked on without immediately and blatantly giving away important details about the ending.  Like its original, there are some revelations and plot twists at the final hour – and they can vary, depending on the ending you get.

But I can speak in generalities and talk about the structure of the endings without giving away details.

Lifeboat
An object used in one of the epilogues.

I can be a very compulsive person.  As a result, I am all too familiar with player paranoia: when a player feels anxious about if they’re missing some content.  If you’re walking through a maze and find the exit, only to turn around and check every last dead end so you know you didn’t miss anything – that’s player paranoia.  When a game overwhelms the player with choices and gives them a clear right/wrong answer, it can be an unpleasant amount of pressure.  I recall playing the acclaimed Metroid Prime for the first time.  I was having a lot of fun with the game, until I learned from somewhere that there were multiple endings, and that they were determined in large by the amount of hidden upgrades you collected throughout the game.

…I never played it again.  That knowledge turned the game, for me, from fun exploration into obsessive item-hunting.  It’s exactly the kind of system I don’t want in my game – I don’t want to burden the player with the worry that they made the wrong choice or missed things early on and unwittingly doomed themselves.

Admittedly, there is a lot of story-telling potential to having the game remember the things that you do.  And I plan for that to be an element in the game.  However, the factors that influence the game’s ending will follow this pattern:

1) The more drastic a factor changes the story, the later in the story it occurs

2) Conversely, the earlier a factor occurs in the story, the less significant it is to the overall direction of the story

Some more objects used in the latter parts of the game
Some more objects used in the latter parts of the game

What this means is, essentially, there will be two types of variables that change the ending/epilogue that you see.  Conversations that occurred in the early/middle parts of the game could change additional, flavor dialogue at the end.  It would give a nod to some of the choices you made earlier on, but does not itself decide the direction of the story or the resolution of the mystery.  On the other hand, there are larger revelations and clues you can find, which will be available all the way up to the end of the game, which will decide the ending you get.

To reference what has to be probably my (and many other peoples’) favorite alternate ending design to date, the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2 has lots of smaller factors that decide who amongst your crew lives or dies – but ultimately, that isn’t what decides the climax of the story.  At the end, there is still a big choice you can make at the end regardless of what you’ve done beforehand, which means you don’t feel shoehorned.  It’s a good blend between acknowledging the player’s previous choices and allowing them to make new ones, and the ending of Why Am I Dead At Sea attempts to achieve that effect.

Rebirth

Hello world!  Remember me?  I wouldn’t hold it against you if you didn’t.  I’ve had a lot of gaps where I said “This time I’ll really be much more active on my blog!” and then completely wasn’t, but this has been a long absence even for me.

Well, let’s catch up.

For one, I’m back in America.  My time in China finished just over a month ago, though in many ways it feels as if I just stepped off the plane several days ago.  I only spent a year there, but it felt like much longer, and it was surprisingly hard to say goodbye.  My time in China, especially the time at the end of my stay, and my return to the US would be enough content to fill ten subsequent rambling blog posts, but I have other things to talk about, so if it waited this long it can wait a little longer.

Why Am I Dead: Rebirth

For another, I’ve gone and released a game “Why Am I Dead: Rebirth”, a remake to the original.  If it seems like this came out of nowhere, that’s because it absolutely did.  I didn’t mention it anywhere once…just sort of silently slipped it online one night.  It’s a pretty comprehensive update, I hope; all of the art has been completely redone with more time and experience put into it, and the dialogue/story has been edited or added to substantially.  Lastly, the game is running on the source code of “Why Am I Dead At Sea”, which means the characters can have AI, the environment is more interactable, there’s more support for scripting, and things tend to be a bit smoother.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can play it on Newgrounds here.

The Why

Why did I remake the original game?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a free flash game being remade, unless there is some direct profit involved.  Well make no mistake, I am making zero money off of Rebirth.  I didn’t even bother to put in any ads.  So…why?  The simplest answer is I wanted a break from creating the sequel, but I was afraid of any side-project running away and consuming all of my attention.  This was a side-project I knew I could finish, and, well, I knew I would eventually get bored of.

The Art

You know what I really love?  Before/after comparisons.  So here are some images from the original game and remake paired up to show you the difference in visuals.  To be honest, updating the visuals was by far the most gratifying part of this project.

First up, the character designs.  On the top are the originals, and the bottom has their updated versions.  Though the differences might seem subtle at first glance I feel like the remakes are miles ahead in terms of readability and aesthetics.

WAID Redux!

Here are the full sprite-sheets for every character in each game side by side.  They get automatically resized, so I just put up the thumbnails; you’ll have to click on them to get the full thing.  The style of animation has been updated to that of “Why Am I Dead At Sea”, which means essentially double the smoothness.

Character SpritesheetCharacter Spritesheet

The last thing I’ll show is two screenshots of the same place in each game.  Note the updated dialogue UI, the inclusion of shadows, and the tweaked environment.  The floor is darker and simpler, making it easier on the eyes, and the walls use their color much more efficiently.

WAID Screen3 WAIDR Screen3

The Story

There were some aspects about the original game that I felt dissatisfied with, but left in because I felt changing they were too inextricable with the rest of the game.  The premise of the game and its basic structure is the same.  But I did make some alterations about how you actually progress, relying more on interacting with scenery at the right time instead of what I thought were non-intuitive and somewhat repetitive interactions with characters.  Dialogue had to be rewritten for this, and so some characters have different conversations and relationships.

One clear example (spoilers!) is that in the original, Randy opens up to Cricket and spills the beans about his whole past.  For this, you have to possess Randy and use him to confess to Cricket.  Doing this possessed as Randy doesn’t seem right, since as the player your dialogue choices should be inquisitive in nature, getting information out of the person you’re talking to; not the reverse.  In the new game, you possess Cricket and find some letters which you can then use to pressure Randy into opening up.  This fits the design of the game better, as you are always the one asking questions, which the game then answers.  But notably, it has the side-effect of changing Randy and Cricket’s relationship.  Instead of Randy trusting Cricket and confiding in him, Cricket simply squeezes the truth out of Randy.

WAIDR Screen4

There are a couple other changes like this, but even bigger than the things I changed are the things that I added.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about the new stuff, since that’s supposed to be found out by playing – but I think it’s fair to at least say how many endings the game has now.  The original “Why Am I Dead” had only one ending, but I hastily added a second one after putting it online.  “Rebirth” adds yet two more, creating a total of four endings.

The new endings add context behind the initial mystery and answer some questions that were brought up in the original game.  I’m not sure they live up to my own expectations, but hopefully if you’re the kind of person who worked hard enough to see the endings, you’ll be the kind of person to appreciate the new context.  And just to be clear, the things brought up in the new endings were what I had in mind when I made the original two years ago – I didn’t just come up with them on the spot!  So it is really canonical to the first game.

WAIDR Screen5

The Timing

This game was sort of rushed out of the gate, and there’s still work to do on it.  Yes, sadly, by that I mean there are some pretty scary bugs…though I will say it’s way better than the original was on its release!  In addition I didn’t add any API support for Newgrounds, so there’s no medals or even tracking on the game.

But I released it when I did so that I could cross-promote in the game.  Cross-promote what, exactly?  Why, none other than my Steam Greenlight page for the upcoming sequel!  That’s right, “Why Am I Dead At Sea” now has its own Greenlight page, which I highly recommend you go to right now and vote “Yes” on!

In truth, I could have waited on both “Rebirth” and the Greenlight page, since I’ve been busy traveling recently and wasn’t able to capitalize on either.  I should have contacted press and various websites about both developments when the iron was hot, but I’m only catching up on that now.  So really…bad timing, I guess.  But it’s up and getting eyeballs, so I guess that’s a good thing!

This post is already really quite long, so I think I’ll leave a more detailed look at the Greenlight and any developments on the sequel for my next post.  Which I promise will be much more prompt than this one was!