For this project, we were given the theme of “home” and the freedom to interpret what ‘home’ meant. Matt and I were partners for this project again with a programmer from Studio 2 assigned to us: Lanz.
Prior to Lanz joining the team, Matt and I originally came up with the concept of having the player character acclimatizing to their new home environment. The acclimatization would be shown via the apartment in present time, having objects spawn as time progress in-game. This would create the appearance of the apartment look more lived in. Day 1 would have an empty apartment with moving boxes/suitcases, Day 2 has a desk set up with some of the boxes missing and so forth. The idea was that the player can interact with the new objects: pick it up and rotate it around and a small text box appears with a description of the item. This would allow the player to learn the object’s important to the character.
Once Lanz joined us, the idea evolved into the setting being in a fictional steampunk world. You play as a young woman named Harriet Danvers who has recently moved aboard shortly after her graduation for work. As well, to prove to those within her family who doubt her, that she can be successful and independent. Players will have a glimpse into snapshots in her first month living abroad via the letters she receives. These letters will give players a chance to learn more about Harriet: what her job is, her mental state and how she is coping living on her own.
Matt had asked if I wanted to be project manager this time, but I declined; I was more interested in being the creative lead, or at least the lead writer for the narrative. Oddly enough it worked out well for us since I enjoyed writing while Matt was able to figure out the technical aspects the game needed. We spent most of a Monday morning nailing down the different technical aspects of the game for Lanz so he could begin his technical documentation and work on the game scripts. I began working on a ‘sample’ of the letters to see if the group approved before I worked on the draft of the letters. The sample served as a showcase of the different characters whose letters will be seen in the game, their writing style and the formatting of the letters.
Everything seemed to be going well at first. Everyone was excited or at least interested in the idea, we all got along great and had fantastic communication. Till suddenly out of the blue, we were told that Lanz was dropping out of the project due to a complicated situation in his personal life. While unexpected, we made the best of it and did what we could. I wrote the draft of the letters and got some feedback on it, although admittedly, it took me a while before I finally got around to doing the final version of the letters.
The reason it took me so long to get around to it was because our gibberish manager (aka gibmanager) script was proving to be problematic. The idea was that I would input the letters into different elements, and each letter prefab would have a script attached to it referencing the correct element in their respective spots. I just did not anticipate how tedious and time-consuming creating the gibberish terms for 1500+ words would be while ensuring it had the same capitalization and punctuation. Later in the day, I found out I would have to redo inputting the letters and the words cause it did not save the words when transferred between scenes. Finally, the final hurdle with the gibmanager was when one of the letters needed to be shortened. The removal of two paragraphs removed over a hundred words, and I found some typos as I was fixing the manager, leading to even more fixing up to ensure all the gibberish words matched the same element number as the unique word.
Later Matt informed me that the letter prefabs I had created were not scaled correctly, as I had forgotten to check the scaling prior to assigning all the text boxes to their spots. A mistake that was costing us time we could not afford to lose already as we had missed all of our play-testing deadlines (although we were close to making the first deadline).
All was not bad though. We found a bunch of animators who were interested in creating the models for the apartment for us, despite how late it was into the trimester. A friend of mine offered her artistic assistance in the project as well, so we had her create the UI and some art assets (e.g paintings) to put around the apartment. I was hoping Lanz would return to the project when he made a reappearance on campus, but it was not to be sadly.
I did begin to get nervous as the exhibition deadline came closer, as while we had much of the game finished, there was a lot that needed fixing. I spent the last 2 weeks being incredibly sick when my common flu managed to mutate itself into a viral illness (influenza), with the bonus of a complication in the form of a secondary infection.
What I wasn’t expecting was for Matt to be sick for the same amount of time I was, with a different ailment. This was partially my fault as due to being so ill, I had slacked off on communicating with Matt. By the time I apologized for not assisting on the project cause I was sick, it was when I was told he had been ill as well. Admittedly though, it would be nice to be informed in some manner that he was ill as well.
Speaking of communication, I feel that communication outside of class is something Matt and I need to improve on. It is definitely something I intend on improving in the next trimester. While Matt and I communicated perfectly well in class, our communication outside of class was severely lacking at times. As we were either: not online at the same time or I was stuck waiting for a response from Matt for more than an hour.
I am glad we managed to get it done for the exhibition, which you can read about here. During the exhibition, we did have some people come and play our game, which gave us a chance to hear their thoughts and any feedback they had for us. The most common feedback we had heard was the complaint about the font coloring, they found the red/green text too difficult to read. Followed by the very small trigger boxes as it made it difficult to interact with objects, in particular, the light switch. One did mention that he wished we allowed people to choose between the keyboard or controller, as he found the controller very awkward to use as he played primarily with the keyboard/mouse combination.
I did enjoy writing the letters and actually quite proud of them. Little disappointed I had to cut down the content for one of the letters but that cannot be helped. Writing the letters and ensuring they kept in line with the steampunk theme was an interesting challenge. Although I did feel I could have written the letters better; to reflect Harriet’s desire to prove she can be successful and independent and reflect her thoughts/mental state a lot more. On a whole, I am quite pleased with how the project turned out in the end.
You can find Acclim on itch.io or simply click on the provided hyperlink to download and try the game out yourself (link). However, it only supports gamepad controller at this time. Keyboard/mouse support will be added later.