2020/04/19 Status Update
Our second playtest build is available now. For this update, I go through some of the ways we took feedback from our first playtest and used them to help us polish the game for this current playtest. The new working title for our game is now RavenHeart Hospital: A Medical Visual Novel, and no longer Project Noho.
Showcase the game
Apply to GameScape (Deadline: March 31st, 2020)
- We submitted for this last Tuesday. We expect to hear back during April
- Demo at CCBC Tech and Gaming Expo (Event: April 25th, 2020, THIS SATURDAY!)
A rising concern with this goal is the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences for large group gatherings and school closures. We are keeping a close eye on this developing situation and understand if some events end up postponing or canceling as a result.
Our second playtest is available now to newsletter subscribers! We have already gotten great feedback over the week, and I look forward to hearing more thoughts from players!
I'd like to do a bit more of a deep dive into all the work and systems that went into place to polish the game for our second playtest.
Title Screen / Character Creator
Some of the feedback that we got last playtest was that the transitions were jarring. In particular, the game abruptly ended and some players thought that the game had just crashed instead of successfully finishing the game.
We wanted to address some of these issues by building a framework around the game, starting with a title screen, and ending with a credit screen. You can start the game from the title screen, select the one episode we have available now and the first chapter of that episode to start playing and when you finish you will see our credit screen.
In the above photo, there are three different character concept pieces, all done by Zac Bolubasz (@_sneb_ on Instagram). This is the first step towards a full blown character creator that we want to present in the game. We want to provide more options to customize and build up your doctor going forward, such as selecting your doctor's face, hair, skin tone, and more.
From the title screen, you can immediately jump to the credits screen, and vice versa.
Another piece of feedback we received was that players found the protagonist to be their least favorite character and wanted to select a protagonist character that they could identify with. To address this, we wanted to start taking a crack as making a character creator.
In addition, it was weird having the name PROTAG floating around, so to help give players more ownership of their doctor, we added an input for their name. We have already received some feedback about this name not consistently appearing throughout the game as well as a preference to see the doctor reference to as, well, a doctor.
In the previous playtest build, we had much choppier scene transitions. This was because the scenes were instantly loading and switch as far as possible. This was rather jarring. As you will see below, we added a faded in and out transition between all scenes. This forced me to improve and deal with a few bugs that existed in the scene-to-scene management, but it was worth it to get this transition to feel better.
As you may have noticed, there is a consistent stripe pattern that is used in various places in the game's UI. This is the result of a few new materials I made with a new shader, that we think add a dynamism to the UI.
From the last playtest, we received feedback that sometime players would skip dialogue and miss what was previously said. This could happen during pure dialogue scenes or during operations, which is particularly bad if our doctors don't know what operations they should be performing and start trying out various tools on the patients until one works (in game, not real life).
Below is a screenshot of the Dialogue History window in action. To open it, players can click on the History button in the top-left corner. This window contains a history of all dialogue said within the scene, colorized by the speaker who said the dialogue.
Working on this window really forced me to learn more in's and out's of the UI system for Unity, our game engine. This was a tricky window because all of our dialogue could taken up a single line of text or multiple lines. Some narrator lines could take up four lines of text. The solution to resolving this is to have each dialogue entry scale dynamically to the text content within it. And then to have the scroll-able space containing all of the dialogue entries to dynamically scale to them.
The end result is dialogue entries that feel appropriate fitted to their text and fully scroll-able window. What I learned from doing the UI for this helped me greatly to solve and create new, dynamic UI for other parts of the game.
A lot went into polishing the surgery mechanics for the game. Mostly tracking down and fixing bugs that existed with individual systems. There is still much more polish that we have to put into this system, but we are happy to share some of the improvements with players now.
Some notes that we received were that some of the surgery tools were wonky and did not feel responsive.
One solution was added random quips to procedures to give some feedback on the operations progress. The list of quips was pretty fun to come up with. But this is not the end of giving feedback in operations; we plan to looking into some kind of scoring systems and with the chapter select, the ability to go back and try to do operations better.
One other thing the GIF above shows is the slower transition from one operation phase into the next. Before, this transition would happen instantaneously in a frame, but now we try to let a phase end, have some breathing room, and then move on to the next thing to let players feel a brief sense of completion.
The GIF above shows how we are playing around with the background for internal surgery scene. We intentionally don't want this game to be gory, but give the scene of some kind of fluid, blood-like environment without being, well, bloody.
The background shown is a more wavy version of the stripe shader that I mentioned earlier. Another direction to take the background is to go more organic, but still abstract, using a voronoi shader, as shown here.
Character Stage Positions
One of the things our script lets JT do is position characters on the stage and move them around. One trouble we encountered with this behavior is that not all characters are the same size.
We need a solution to resolve having both of these character on screen and changing positions around. We also wanted certain stage positions to stand in front of or behind other stage positions. More importantly, we didn't want the script to have to worry about this behavior.
So the solution was to add a component to each characters' configs to give them a "size", going from small to large. Smaller characters are sorted to the front, while larger characters are sorted to the back, group photo style. If two characters have the same size, their stage position determines who is standing in front.
Playtest 2 Feedback
As with our first playtest, we looked forward to receiving a lot of great feedback and this playtest is no different. We want to know what people think and we want to continue to make this project better for players.
Steam Game Festival
It has come to our attention that Steam is running a summer game festival and we are considering whether we should participate in it to help demo our game and share it with more players.
We have the first pass as character concepts for the character creator. We want to keep exploring this space and play around with ways to build up characters from parts.
Environment Artist Search
We began reaching out for help with getting real background art for our game. Additionally, we are looking for support with surgery art for the tools and wounds.
I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of our studio's status update. Each week, we try to bring new and interesting updates about how our studio and game are developing that we think people will like and learn from. Feel free to share this with anyone that you think would like and learn from these updates as well.
If you have any questions, comments, feedback for me, you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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