Thought Police Post-Mortem

Posted by
May 2nd, 2014 10:58 am

title

Okay, so now I’ve had a few days to mull the experience over and got a little feedback on Thought Police (Please go play it if you haven’t!), I feel prepared to go over the experience properly:

What Went Right

The planning stages

Jacek Klimy (Blush)What we achieved out of the gate was pretty efficient, all told. A mixture of me and Aryn thinking alike, and having all the resources set up in the hours before meant we could quickly sit down, take out the whiteboard and marker, and come up with a plan. Because we had previously established that we’d work in Ren’Py, it was easy to say whether an idea would be simple or hard to implement with my level of coding knowledge.

Because Ren’Py is purely code-based, there’s no way to see the overarching structure of the story. So when planning the script, I used Twine to shape the story’s structure. This was an absolute godsend, as the story branches and rejoins multiple times. Eventually I just wrote straight to Ren’Py instead of pre-planning. That worked fine for a game this short, but I should definitely plan as I go when crafting more complex stories.

The character design process

Compelling characters are so, so important in anything narrative driven. I like to tell my stories in second person (so the player is put into the protagonist’s shoes, but the protag is their own person), and although that wasn’t the case for this game, it still made me place having a likeable player character quite high. Which, considering Alexis never really smiles, was maybe a challenge!

The moodboard ued for Chief Gentry

The moodboard used for Chief Gentry

Outfit design is equally important, I feel. Just like how you express your personality through what you wear, so do characters in fiction. Having a stage where we did mood boards of character body types and clothes (I have a tumblr where I archive clothes I like, so this was easier for me than most, possibly) made the art asset stage more driven, and gave me a better idea of character dialogue style.

The mood

We had initially planned to work around the idea of a black comedy. Aryn likes doing stories with heavy subject matter, where my stories are fluffier and less serious. The PSP/Vita game Dangan Ronpa informed a lot of design choices in this regard – it’s a very visually bright game about murder, with settings that utilise a lot of black and heavy gradients, and objects intentionally being off-kilter in proportions.

skyscraper

Cast Diversity

This went largely right. Because I’m a queer person of colour, having characters that identify with one or both of those things is both important to me, and something that I work in without too much effort. It’s a lot easier than some people claim it to be. I throw so much shade at those people. When a friend played the game, he felt the entire cast was queer in some way, which I have now decided is totally canon.

If I was to be super nitpicky, I would have has Alexis’ skintone a little more obviously Mediterranean, and another female-identifying character other than Julienne, but hey ho.

 

What Went Wrong

Proofreading, Proofreading, Proofreading.

I work in journalism as a career, and spelling mistakes are like loading a pistol and giving it to a five-year-old who hates your guts. It’s a bad idea, and no one who witnesses it will forget your poor actions for a while. In handling both the script and code, typos had different but equally severe negative effects.

Alexis Brambilla (Device - Exasperated)

In the time available I did my best to catch errors as I went, but in the final hours of the jam, Aryn had already left for home and was unable to help me proofread – and I was so tired, catching errors became harder and harder. Since uploading my work, I’ve found two typos – and I pray that I don’t find more. I have refrained from correcting them – it feels against the spirit of things.

In future jams, I will export my script as a .txt, and proof it that way, or better yet employ a second set of eyes to proof for me.

Scale and Asset Creation

Drawing sprites took a lot of time. While the end result was some absolutely immaculate character art, the inking process for a pose took up to three hours to produce.

For me, I sometimes ran into walls of coding issues, where the method of doing something I thought was simple became an hour of scrabbling through Ren’Py documentation, screaming inwardly.

While I did use Warmup Weekend to discover a few coding techniques (that I went on to use in the jam, no less), there were still things I didn’t think to research first. For the emotion system, although it all looks synched up and seamless when you play the game; the code behind it is pretty heavily jury-rigged and inefficient. Maybe there’s a way to reduce the lines of code needed for it, who knows.

Humour

This is something I didn’t really think about until we started getting feedback on the game (and I definitely appreciate the feedback). Some players said that the humour took away from the mood; which I can understand – but I just couldn’t bring myself to follow through on the heavier topics the game brings up.

I mean, police corruption is a pretty major and serious issue that my “Fuck the Police” Bad Ends don’t appropriately broach, nor would I ever intend them to. Alexis was initially written to straight up slap Jacek as a dialogue option, which I changed because that felt far too real. Kayode and Julienne get really cruel deaths if you stop to think about them, but that flashback is injected with extra melodrama to offset that. Jacek is an unreliable narrator, at that.

But maybe I was wrong for doing that. By using a lighter tone, it’s fair argument that I’m being trivialising. I could talk myself in circles about this – but so far no one has found the game problematic, which, considering the subject matter, I’m going to take with pride.

 

Final Thoughts

I’m super happy this all came together. I was a lot more ambitious in this game than my last, and it shows (A lot of people have said the story is surprisingly large for an LD game, and that makes me incredibly happy)! My next personal target is efficiency – know the ins and outs of Ren’Py a little better, schedule in proofreading time, and work out more efficient ways to get the assets together.

Thank you to everyone who has played the game so far! We love you.


One Response to “Thought Police Post-Mortem”

  1. evilDan says:

    Good post-mortem – thanks for posting!

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