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The Monster Files – Infographic

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Monday, September 14th, 2015 2:36 pm

Inspired by HotBox Game’s earlier infographic, I decided to check our stats and make one for our game! Enjoy.

Infographic

Ludum Dare is such a great 3 and a bit weeks of game making, rating, and being part of a fantastic community. We’ve had a blast, and are very eagerly awaiting the results. Well done everyone, and see you next year!

 

The Monster Files – Development Timelapse

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Monday, September 14th, 2015 7:02 am

With voting drawing to a close, I finally got around to making the timelapse of my half of the development of The Monster Files. Watch in full screen for the best experience!

We’re playing as many games as possible in this last day! We’ve had some pretty great reviews on our game, so if you haven’t played it already, give it a shot!

The Monster Files

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, September 12th, 2015 5:45 pm

With the judging period closing in a couple of days and having had loads of great feedback on our game, I thought I’d write a bit about our game. More specifically, the half that has really split opinion in our comments section.

Click the image to play!

The Monster Files is a detective game, inspired by the likes of Ace Attorney and dialogue-driven games. As the artist, I actually took inspiration from a previous Ludum Dare entry, The Lion’s Song. Although the result is less artsy than LeafThief’s fantastic work, the limited sepia palette came directly from playing that in a previous Ludum Dare.

The gameplay involves talking to four suspects surrounding a corpse, any of whom might be a horrible monster! It’s focused on narrative and the (hopefully) funny characters, and is very silly, but we think it’s pretty fun. It’s more polished than our previous efforts, and we we’re definitely pleased with that section of the game.

However, there is a second part to our game. Once you accuse someone of being the monster, there needs to be some kind of closure. Again we were inspired by an ingenious previous Ludum Dare entry, Bear Pong. It was a fantastically funny entry in the 27th Ludum Dare, in which you play Pong before having to run away from a bear for 10 seconds. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. So our idea for closing each case was simple: switch genres completely, and make it a really, really startling change.

From this point on there are spoilers that kind of spoil the experience, so if you haven’t played it and don’t want to get spoiled, play it here.

If you don’t mind being spoiled or have already played, read on.

 

 

RoundoIsMonster

In the first case, as the player progresses it becomes apparent that the clown is the monster. And upon accusing him, this happens:

Monster1Fight

 

It’s a complete and hopefully really surprising change for the player. However, it is also the weakest aspect of our game.

We’ve had a number of people comment on the difficulty of the fights, many people found them hard, and a proportion of people found that “the battle sequence is so hard and useless for me”. Others found them a fun addition, but I think the majority opinion was that they weren’t as strong as the narrative sections. We considered making them easier in development, and deciding not to was probably a mistake. It’s difficult to judge, as some people said that they enjoyed the fighting sections, but even some people who found them easy thought they were unnecessary:

“The fighting parts were a bit weak however, you can easily beat all three monsters with just one technique over and over again.”

So, what went wrong? Well firstly, we set a standard in the first half of each case that the fighting parts don’t match in terms of polish, as hitchh1k3r said, “I found the controls (mostly hit detection) to be off putting, I think it’s important to have a well polished second part when you pull a switcheroo like that”. There are so many Ludum Dare entries that understandably struggle to achieve precise character control that feels good, even if they’re fantastic otherwise and only have one form of gameplay. We spread ourselves a little thin with the two different modes, which meant we didn’t put enough effort into the fighting sections’ feel. It was our first attempt as a group at direct character control; if we had spent all of our resources on the fights then it’s possible that they would have been more successful.

Monster2

The fight sequences lacked punch, which was due to a combination of the hitboxes, movement, sound and graphics. The hitboxes were a little tricky, sometimes you get hit when it feels like you shouldn’t, and you can score hits on the monster without the sprites touching. The movement ought to have had more thought put into it rather than something so simple, as the player character’s movement was set up and then (once the speed had been adjusted) hardly touched. Once it was working and the bugs were fixed, we really didn’t reassess it at all. The sound could have been more layered as well, although our sound guys did a fantastic job with sound effects, there isn’t a sound for connecting a punch, nor a sound for getting hurt. Graphically, I didn’t have enough time to add to the animations, which are limited and could be more effective. There is also a disconnect between the narrative sections and the fighting in terms of graphics, which I think brings the player out of the game somewhat. Hits lack impact, which could have been fixed by a combination of sound effects and new graphical effects.

User richardjs said something which we all found really interesting:“The fights were frustrating at first, but after I approached it as solving the puzzle of their movement patterns vs. viewing it as a pure action sequence, I enjoyed them more”, which is something that we didn’t realise. While I’ve been referring to them as fights, they are closer to boss fights than Street Fighter, as it’s all about figuring out the enemy’s attack pattern and how to avoid its attacks. In the first two fights in particular, it is about dodging the attack and then throwing a single punch, then dodging again. The last boss is slightly more complex, as the best tactic is to get in close, hit once, then run away from its swing. It will then follow the player and once you’re backed up against the edge then the player needs to forgo a hit in order to jump over the enemy.

GIF

Another suggestion from a couple of users was to change the fights to something more inline with the main game, such as a mouse-based puzzle. It’s a strong argument, but I think it goes against the principle of switching the game completely. I think the actual solution is to change them to something similarly different from a dialogue point-and-click, but make it far simpler. The fight is overly tricky and requires the user to learn something completely different from the core gamepley, as David Yates put it in his comment, “this was like if I spent a term studying underwater basket weaving and then got to the exam and it asked me to write an essay on Shakespeare” and he’s right. Making the user learn a relatively complex set of controls for the fight sequence after five minutes of playing the game means that their patience is pretty likely to run out. If it were something simpler, like a single button minigame, I think it still could have been a successful part of our entry.

You can play our entry here, we’d love to hear any thoughts you’ve got on it! (the last case is still spoiler-free!)

Ludum Dare Comment Checker!

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Friday, September 4th, 2015 6:11 am

Are you constantly refreshing your game’s entry page like me just waiting and waiting for new comments? Wish there was something that could notify you when you get a new comment? Well now there is! Enter the Ludum Dare Comment Checker!

commentchecker

Get the code here!

It’s a little Python3 script that requires PyGUI (for the alert box). You also need your Ludum Dare unique game id, which can be found here:

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 12.01.47

Happy rating! Also this is the first time I really used Python for anything proper, so code review/suggestions for improvement would be fantastic!

(Also Mike an API would be nice for the next LD website pretty please?)

The Monster Files: Content Creation

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 10:18 am

First off, a massive thank you to everyone that’s played and rated our game so far! We’ve been trying to play as many as we can – it’s always nice getting comments.

Click to play!

We’ve been getting a lot of comments impressed at how much content the game has for 72 hours. There are 3 cases, each with 4 characters that take about 5-10 minutes to play through. We didn’t use an existing interactive fiction/point and click engine, and there’s a whole other game mode, so we didn’t exactly have a lot of time for writing stories.

Planning!

We had an hours planning before bed (the theme is announced at 2am in the UK) and we settled on a Pheonix-Wright like game in that hour. Whilst I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about a good format for the cases.

It had to be

  • human readable and writeable (I didn’t want to write a whole new program to create the cases!)
  • very flexible (I had no idea what structure the cases would take or what info they would need)
  • easily parseable by AS3 (I didn’t want to spend ages writing a parser for it)
  • simple/lightweight (for quick creation of cases)

It seemed like I wouldn’t find anything that would fit all of those restrictions, so I fell into an uneasy sleep, worrying about parsers, interpreters, and why we even decided to do an interactive fiction game in the first place.

Then I woke up. And it hit me.

Apparently this is the JSON logo

The first dialog. This is best-seller material right here.

JSON was perfect for this. No set structure but complex objects can be created, ability to reference things just by strings, and – the icing on the cake – with native AS3 support.

Getting AS3 to read and convert a JSON text file into a native AS3 object was a breeze. After that, the dialog system fell into place. This meant that after only 4 hours work, we had a little test dialog, with characters on screen talking. It was fantastic.

The structure itself is fairly simple. We just have a list of characters, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 15.46.43

A list of evidence/items, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 15.48.01

And a list of dialogs, which can be referenced by name anywhere where they’re needed (in questions, from evidence, from other dialogs, etc).

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 15.49.15

The system we created was so easy to work with and quick to extend: adding new functionality was as easy as adding a new statement type, then deciding what it should do. This could be anything from simple things like characters talking or turning, to giving you evidence, to removing a question from someone. It was that simple, and allowed us to write each of the three cases quickly and efficiently. Once we’d eventually decided the plot for them, at least…

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 16.11.13

Solve the case! Click to play!

Thanks for reading this. There will probably be a bigger post-mortem coming soon!

The Monster Files: Cased Closed.

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Monday, August 24th, 2015 10:30 pm

LD33-title

 

We’ve finally finished our interactive fiction game “The Monster Files”! We worked right up to the submission hour, and we’re really pleased with the game we’ve made! It has a load of content and we’ve already got some great reviews, so come check it out if you want!

Play it here!

Well done to everyone who finished a game! We had such a blast making ours. Now we’re off to rate some games.

We’re still working hard…

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Monday, August 24th, 2015 4:17 am

LD33-surprise

 

We’re still working hard on our jam game here at Literal Games, and we’ve still got so much to do! Sound effects, final graphics, another case to write, and most importantly, polish!!

LD-33stream

https://twitch.tv/LiteralGames

 

Our stream is still up, so come watch us if you’re feeling the post-compo blues!

Second Crime Scene

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 5:36 pm

Episode 2 GIFComing to the end of the another day we’ve almost completed the second crime scene. Whilst the sharp-eyed may spot that we still need to change the backdrop, work on the storyline is finished and we’re turning to other elements of the game… (how mysterious!).

Check it out and watch us struggle on into the night at:

http://twitch.tv/LiteralGames

Whodunnit?

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 5:39 am

start

Our first case is done and ready to play! We’d love it if you gave it a try and told us what you think!

Play it here!

You can click on the characters to ask them questions, and you can use/show evidence to people by clicking on the evidence then on a person.

Give us any feedback here, or on our stream. We’ve still got lots of work to do, so come watch us!

http://twitch.tv/LiteralGames

Our first murder scene…

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 8:22 pm

ld-breath

We’ve just finished implementing our first case! It’s a murder mystery at the circus, and it’s no laughing matter! We’ve created a very sturdy base for creating more episodes, so we’re hoping for a very story rich game.

http://twitter.com/LiteralGames

We’re off to bed now, but follow us on twitter if you’re interested in knowing when we stream tomorrow morning!

‘Composing’ the ‘Soundtrack’

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 4:54 pm

We finally have some music up on our Soundcloud so go check that out and let us know how we’re doing!

We’re also dialogue writing at the moment, so join us to see how many puns it’s possible to fit into one game!

http://twitch.tv/LiteralGames

Story time!

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 1:21 pm

nose

We’re well under way making our interactive fiction game. The features are in, and we even put together a little story to test it. It’s a circus mystery, with strongmen and clowns! Give it a try here: http://natpat.net/games/ludumdare/LD33

Can you solve the mystery of the missing nose?

https://twitch.tv/LiteralGames

Animating a Monster

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 11:07 am

Look: it’s a monster!

ScaryClown

 

And it can walk (work in progress)!


WALKGame is coming along nicely, there are clowns and monsters and we hope it’s a bit of a different take on the theme!

See more of our stuff and give us any feedback on our stream, or just come say hi!

http://www.twitch.tv/LiteralGames

 

Dialog trees and clowns?!

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 7:18 am

1.gif

We’re rapidly making progress here at Literal Games! I’m working on our dialog tree structure, our artist is working on lots of pixelly people, the fight system is coming on well and mysterious music has been echoing throughout the house. Come watch us stream and help us work out whodunnit (because we need help writing the stories).

http://twitch.tv/LiteralGames

 

First Sprites!

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 4:44 am

Any opinions or critique are great!

SpriteTest

We’ve created a few characters, although these are the first of many, so there’s a long way to go. Prototyping is also happening at a good pace, and there’s lots of fun and chatting to be had on our stream:

http://www.twitch.tv/LiteralGames

Brainstorming down, now for bed!

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
Friday, August 21st, 2015 9:25 pm

11937982_10207406720827673_672572339_n

It’s 3am for us, so now we’ve got the start of an idea in our head we’re heading off to bed. Our idea revolves around detective work, accusations, and silly fights!

http://twitter.com/LiteralGames

We’re going to be back streaming in a few hours time, follow us on Twitter if you want to know when!

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