We’re still soldiering away on multiple projects here. Among other things, the next iteration of N. Yes! Finally we’re posting about N. Hooray!!!
There has been a lot of internal discussion about what sorts of things we want to do with it, and beyond the obvious — make it a proper “web 2.0″ dealie with in-browser play and integrated level creation/sharing and all that good stuff — there are lots of things to consider.
So far we’ve come up with a bunch of interesting and weird online ideas, and we’ve been talking with some of our friends about how to actually implement them — our knowledge of all things online, from databases to social platforms, has some serious catching up to do. The exciting news is that databases are apparently way more powerful and less complicated than our limited experience has led us to believe, and we’re really looking forward to figuring out the best ways to use this power in fun new ways.
The core game will remain more or less identical, however the presentation of this gameplay remains an open question. Even the smallest change in context can result in large differences in effect, and some of the things we’ve been debating are the merits of the current “episode-based” single-player structure vs a more freeform arrangement of levels. Episodes definitely provide some much-needed structure and challenge, however they’re also awkward in many ways. We’ve been trying to figure out what other approaches could be used to present/structure levels.
There are also still some annoyingly large concrete development tasks that loom before us, most notably rewriting the editor. We’re of course going to be keeping a “legacy” mode so that everyone who’s gotten used to the current horrible version — ourselves included — can continue to work unhindered. Obviously we’ll be improving even this old-fashioned mode somewhat, because there are a few basic but vital functions that it currently lacks. Undo, anyone?
The main problem editor-wise is how to deal with the whole “half tile” issue: there are some annoying asymmetries caused by our selection of tile shapes. This has been discussed on the forums in the past and it’s a bit hard to explain/describe — actually this vague description indicates that at least part of the challenge lies in finding the most useful way to classify and describe the problem itself.
There remain many possible solutions, all of them with serious flaws: introducing new tile shapes (for example, a 1/4-sized square) means that the tile-selection UI becomes more complex. Frankly the number of new tile shapes that would be needed approaches the number of original shapes, so this option sort of sucks — we don’t want to bury the existing shapes under a pile of (literal) corner cases!
Instead we could simply change the grid to be 2x the current resolution; this works beautifully and unifies everything nicely… except for the circular shapes! Unfortunately these shapes can’t be nicely cut into quarters. There’s also all of the UI problems associated with allowing tiles to be moved around by 1/2-tile increments: users can create very awkward shapes, but is it best to automatically sanitize these, outright disallow any movement that results in such problems, or allow the creation of horrible awkward monstrosities?
It’s a big UI nightmare!!
Anyway, aside from a few remaining bugs and other mundane tasks — such as devising a new format for the level and replay data — there really only remains the considerable effort of developing the backend (database stuff) and the front end (menu/UI flow). Both of these tasks are substantial and somewhat overwhelming… hopefully we can figure it out, if not alone than with the help of our friends.
In other news, the Difference Engine Initiative — which was talked about last time — continues at full steam. Each week the sessions are vibrant and inspirational, and the women involved are creating some really unique and interesting ideas and experiences.
One of the assignments was to modify an existing Stencyl game to make a new game; Mare’s take on this exercise is Herding Cats! Note: You’ll want to hear the sound. It is very simple, and rough and unfinished in a lot of ways, but it’s a decent version 1 and it was an excellent learning experience.
Stay tuned for more on The Difference Engine Initiative as it unfolds.