On abandoned projects, and really slow ones

Ghost (of Once Upon a Crime fame – check it out) posted a great overview of why many indie games fall by the wayside. I know we at Team Effigy tend to fall victim to more than one of these. Click on the link for more:

Why Games Aren’t Made

Recently I received an email (thanks Paul) asking about the status of The Marionette’s voice acting project. The short answer is, we took a break, it’s back on track (super slowly). The long answer is below.

The reasons why the voice project is moving along at such a glacial pace is probably covered in the article linked above. I’m the one working on the voice project. Real life, paid work got in the way for a month or so, after which I took a few months off to slack my free time away. Real, unproductive slacking. Although it’s been to two years since the release of The Marionette, the 4-5 years spent working on it meant that almost all my free time was dedicated to it. I loved making The Marionette, but I have a lot of other things I’ve been wanting to do with my free time too.

So after that intensive period at work, I caved in and put aside the voice project for a while, always promising that I’d get back to it. At that point Eshana’s voice was all done, Martin’s was almost complete and Giuseppe’s was hitting a snag early on. Days turned into weeks into months, and that is why for more than half a year you haven’t heard from me on this.

About two months ago, I forced myself to contact Steve Poulton (Martin) and James Prior (Giuseppe) to ask if they could continue. I am forever thankful for their patience and understanding. Steve’s lines are all done (except for maybe one or two) and James’s are on their way (very slowly of course, because his work and mine are still occassionally getting in the way).

I don’t know how many of you are still reading this blog, but I do apologise for the sparse updates, and please be assured that we are still here, and still going.

Khyle’s Out of Time Development Diary: Scripting For Games …or “What Is Currently Driving Khyle Crazy.”

So it’s been a long time since I’ve made a post on the blog. Reason? Sickness issues. Won’t go into it much more than that, because that’s not what this blog is about and it’s kind of depressing and talking about it isn’t much fun.

Anyway. Scripting for games!

And why it drives me crazy.

Let’s roll back a little and let me introduce you to an awesome piece of freeware called Celtx.

Celtx is basically a pre-production media development center. It allows you to alternatively write scripts, develop storyboards and collaborate with others on your projects through the internet. This program is a great find for anyone needing a basic script writing program. A ‘Pro’ version is also available for a nominal fee ($15) if you wish to stretch your production abilities even further.

Alright, now lets roll back to where we were: scripting for games drives me crazy.

Reason? Our good old friends called ‘Variables’.

Writing the story itself isn’t really the hard part. Writing a script for a game isn’t so much different than writing a script for a movie or play, except for the fact that it has multiple pathways and multiple ways to come to any one ‘conclusion’, with different story elements integrated at any given moment.

Developing a game script, at least, at the beginning, is relatively easy. Writing a very linear game is even easier. Writing for a game that will have some breadth of story-changing game play (like Out of Time) is much, much, much… much harder. While taking your developed mind map and adding scripted elements (surroundings, dialogue, music, sound effects) might seem easy at first, the more you get into it, the more complex it becomes. Like ripples in a pond, things begin to expand and overlap, and you must be sure to keep a close eye on those ripples so they don’t upset that little toy boat (your idea) like a perfect storm.

Let’s take a look at a little bit of the script to see what I’m talking about:

Here’s part of a scene at the very beginning of the game (don’t worry, no spoilers) where you are just starting to learn how to use the current interface (how we’re implementing it is blurred, for IP reasons).  It doesn’t mean much when you first look at it, but do you see all those sticky notes and all the tangents they go into? As we keep going, the number of sticky notes is going to gradually increase. At a certain point, more scripts will begin to propagate off of this one. Different scripts, with differentiating details and (in some cases) differentiating outcomes.

Having a program like Celtx is going to be very important (especially for a group with individuals like me who can’t find their own shoes sometimes). It’s going to give us the ability to keep all of our production notes together while giving us the flexibility of adding and deleting variables as we please. As this is just the first draft, more and more variables will be added until we’re comfortable with the level of interactivity overall. What’s great about this program is that once we do establish enough of the script, there is an area where we can specifically include storyboards! It’s awesome.

So, yeah. That about wraps up my post about scripting for games. I know I could go over all the finer details of specifically writing scripts for games, such as: headers, descriptions, differentiating and combining interface text, speech and interactive variables. But honestly? There’s really no completely ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write a script for a game, as long as you’re being clear and organized. The most important part of writing a script for a game is simply sitting down and writing it. As you can see from the screen shot, Celtx does all that organization work for you, so all you need to do is focus on what you’re writing and what area you need to use to store certain bits of information.

That said, download Celtx and start writing!

And you’re welcome. :)

A Happy New Year, hopefully

What will the new year bring?

It’s been a while since the previous update. Some of you have kindly written in in the meantime with praise for The Marionette. Among you is one Richard Paul, a poet of talent, and I’d like to thank him for taking the time to pen a little poem based on the game. I thought it deserved to be read by a (slightly) wider audience, and so I’ve reproduced it below (scroll down to the end of the post).

As for Team Effigy’s current and future endeavours: As of writing we haven’t found that new member we need yet. To be fair, we haven’t been looking very hard, due to my own full-time work becoming overwhelming towards the end of last year and me needing a break, and Khyle struggling with some health problems. We hope to have a new addition to our team by June this year.

Out of Time is somewhat in limbo, although things have been happening on that front (just verrry slowly). Nikolas has composed two lovely pieces, and Khyle and I are working on the script and storyboard. I hope to be able to share the music with you very soon.

The voice work on The Marionette – well, I must say that is my fault. I had intended for it to be done by December, but I dawdled, and it’s not done. I hope to pick it up again soon – but sooner or later, it WILL be done. Martin’s and Eshana’s lines are all done, in fact, and only Giuseppe and the minor characters remain. You’d think there weren’t that many spoken lines in this game, but it’s still slow going each time.

That’s all for now. I hope to have some more good news soon, and in the meantime I will leave you with Richard’s poem.

Stone Soul, Stone Heart, Dark Fate, Dark Art

The first, he is a sculptor.
He sealed his life and dreams in stone,
Steeled his heart and stood alone
Amidst a silent, marble court.
Behind him lies a path of pain,
Before him it is laid again.
The second is a girl thrice-scorned.
Born to serve her mother’s dream
She grew up screaming silent screams
And with her heart in ruins died.
Now stewardess of strings is she
To take the first, and make him see.
The third, he is a craftsman.
Weaves his way between the rooms
And subtly tries to stall the doom
Of the first, the stumbling sculptor.
Mysterious and vague he’ll be
And must be thus, or doomed is he.
Her venue is a frightful place.
Forged from echoes, forged from shells
Against a cold and blackened hell
Wherein she traps her last failed hope;
And if redemption he can’t earn
She’ll have her vengeance, bind and turn

And rise

And walk

And die.