Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Deadlines.

I've entered Lacuna (which may end up being called "Blue Lacuna") into an interactive fiction competition with an entry deadline of April 2nd, 2008.
I've made a detailed road map for how to get it finished by then, which essentially boils down to:

December 1: Feature Freeze.
January 1: Alpha release. Feature complete. Small group testing.
February 1: Release B. Initial beta. No "placeholder" text. Larger group testing.
March 1: Release 0. Final Beta. Well-written. New batch of testers.
April 1: Release 1 (Competition Release).

If all goes well to that point, I'll spend the next few months prepping the "Storybook" interpreter and the commercial release of the Deluxe version of Lacuna.

I guess I haven't really mentioned my plans here, but they're essentially this: Lacuna will be made available for free, but I will also release it as a boxed game in a deluxe edition that features, among other things, the Storybook interpreter, immersive sound effects, and "special features" like the full source code and an extended version of my game "Gourmet." Both Storybook and the sound effects will dramatically enhance the experience of playing the game. For a hint as to how the former will work, try this analogy: Storybook is to Gargoyle as Gargoyle is to DOS Frotz. Or maybe Storybook is to playing IF as Time Machine is to backing up files with rsync. Storybook will, I hope, be eventually released as an open source project. The design document is all done: I just have to find time to code the thing... hopefully this April and June.

In the meantime, on Lacuna, I'm trying to track down any nebulous features I may have wanted to include at some point but forgot to actually program. One of those is a sort of "Drama Manager" which tracks how long it's been since "something interesting" has happened, as well as guesses at the boredom / frustration level of the player, and can draw from a large library of scenes to spice things up. If the player is stuck on a puzzle, some of these scenes may change things in such a way that the puzzle becomes better hinted or otherwise subtly easier. It's all in service of the notion that Lacuna is more of a novel than a game: unlike the vast majority of puzzle IF, there hopefully won't be long stretches of boredom while the player waits for inspiration to strike.

Technically my deadline is December 1st, but I'm giving myself until Sunday at midnight to lock these things down. Ah, deadlines!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Latest casuality: MAX_STATIC_DATA

MAX_STATIC_DATA is the latest default variable whose size I have exceeded.

I'd become buried under a mass of suggestions and second-guessing, some prompted by the August demo, but most by myself in a fit of reexamination afterwards. These were spread out on so many notebook pages and in so many files that I'd become unsure how to move forward-- should I be working on this system, if it's going to change? Am I writing these conversation nodes according to the latest spec? So last night I went through every damn page of notes and comments and either rejected it, actioned it in iGTD, or made one, new, ultimate master list of "potential changes." It felt great.

One of the big lingering issues to be resolved in this process is the precise natures of Progue's mental and physical illness. I've been reading like crazy the last few months, and have read a lot about the history of madness, books written by mad people, books written by doctors about mad people, books written by mad doctors, etc. It didn't feel like it was helping at the time, but when I sat down to decide once and for all exactly what's going on in my character's head and how it manifests itself (symptoms, behaviors, forms of speech) it came very easily.

I also managed to write about 8,000 words of dialogue over the weekend, not too shabby.