November 2022 Progress Update

Welcome to the spookiest update yet! In the spirit of Halloween we have a horror story that is stranger than fiction~ 👻 So here’s what we were up to during the last month!

A Horror Story For the Ages

Imagine: you’ve been working on a project for over ten years. Many people have contributed over the years and much time and effort has gone into it (Let’s just say over 6169 hours to date – such a random number!). You’re making use of proprietary software to make your project – but hey! It’s used by professionals.

You’ve been working with this software for years and yeah- there’s occasional issues – it happens – but it gets solved quickly and it’s not like anything really bad has happened.

And yet it happens:

############################################################################################
ERROR in
action number 1
at time step2
of time line <undefined>:

Unable to find any instance for object index ‘96904’ name ‘<undefined>’
at gml_RoomCC_Map_4_3_8_Create (line 1) – x = inst_Map_4_3_Rob.x;
############################################################################################
gml_RoomCC_Map_4_3_8_Create (line 1)

You haven’t changed anything. You haven’t upgraded versions. This code where this error is being thrown hasn’t been touched for years.

The error – it’s curious. It says that this object – inst_Map_4_3_Rob – it doesn’t exist. So you try to wrap it in a check. Maybe it’s just being silly with instance creation order or something.

But… it exists.

And yet it doesn’t.

You decide then – ok maybe there’s something wrong with this object. You’ll just remove the offending line of code. It’s fine. You’ll get back to it later.

But then-

############################################################################################
ERROR in
action number 1
of Other Event: Room Start
for object obj_StatementScreenManager:

Unable to find any instance for object index ‘96400’ name ‘(null)’
at gml_Script_scr_StatementScreen_UpdateIcons (line 103) – inst_StatementScreen_StatementBttn._is_selected = type == StatementType.STATEMENT;
############################################################################################

You realized – quickly – that this is happening everywhere. Everywhere in the project where you access objects by their room names crashes. And most- terrifying – this is used everywhere. Over a thousand places. And every. one. crashes.

Quick! Go to google! Surely others have come across this! And yes- thankfully- they have! There are workarounds! But- None of them work? An explanation: It’s an error in the proprietary code. There is nothing you can do.

And so it dawns on you: Ten years of work is gone in moments – outside of your control.

BUT NO! You don’t give up. How could you! It’s ten YEARS of work!

And so you struggle-

And so the answer comes – what if – just what if- this works:

Cautiously, you build and run the game. You open up the areas of the code that were previously crashing and-

Finally-

They run.

It’s a True Story

Yes. Really. It might be hard to believe, but this October in the year 2022 fate decided to give us a real scary time. A good portion of the month was spent running into this issue, going through the five stages of grief, figuring out a solution and uh- logging a bug.

We hope the bug is fixed soon.

This would’ve been a very different update if we hadn’t found a workaround. So we are very happy to report that development can go on. However it is unfortunate that we must report that October had no major development.

However if you happen to be one of the many many people who have come across or might come across this – we hope a simple pass through function will help you carry on through your day.

What’s Next?

Since we couldn’t get too much done this month, we’ll be focusing on some similar items that maybe showed up last month including and not limited to:

  • Adding more UI animations
  • Fixing some minor visual bugs; and
  • Adding a skip feature to cutscenes

October 2022 Progress Update

Hello everyone! It’s spooky season! Here’s what we were up to over the past month~

Gamepad Support

Our primary focus this month was finishing off adding gamepad support which we started in August. Great news: It’s done! Thanks to everyone who hung out with us on stream as we powered through this!

As we mentioned last month, we are considering pushing out a demo update with these changes along with other improvements and minor bug fixes. We have a little more work to make this 100% user friendly – for example we need to display gamepad buttons on UI elements where there are handy shortcuts. This will take a while, so we can’t give a solid date as of yet, but please look forward to it when it comes!

Adding Some Juice

Between adding gamepad support, working on the final debate and turn-based battle improvements – we started to focus on adding some UI animations! These don’t really add too much other than some extra visual interest when playing, but it should help the game feel a little more polished. For example, above is an example of the new party swap animation, and below is an example of new button hover effects!

What’s Next?

Moving into October we will be focusing on more miscellaneous improvements as we work to finish the last debate, primarily around:

  • Adding more UI animations
  • Fixing some minor visual bugs
  • Adding new emote bubbles and passive animals; and
  • Adding a skip feature to cutscenes

September 2022 Progress Update

Happy? September to you all! Summer is just about over here, which means it’s time for another update. Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last month!

Planning, Improvements & More

Last month we focused a lot on improving our development processes and planning out a significant portion of work over the next few months. We completed the debate upgrades (and redid all of the debates) and did some end of game dungeon design! But we can’t show that… Or talk about that…

So instead here’s some of the overworld VFX we added!

Gamepad Support

Another big focus of the month was adding the long-requested gamepad support! We swapped out our input library with Input 5, and began the long process of replacing our existing input support (keyboard + mouse) as well as add gamepad.

The good news:

  • Adding Input 5 was easy, and swapping out the input libraries was even easier
  • We can now support all sorts of different controllers
  • Input 5 supports easily swapping different input configurations (future work)
  • WASD and arrow keys will be supported for movement (a highly requested feature)

The bad news:

  • We’re still working on adding support

We’re hoping to finish off most of the basic support this month and looking to roll out the basic support into the demo sometime before the end of the year.

In the meantime, enjoy what it looks like to debug scroll bars:

What’s Next?

Our big goals for the next month are:

  • Finish basic gamepad support
  • Begin working on writing the final debate battle (!!!)
  • Add some UI FX juice
  • Adding more animals and enemies to the game
  • Expanding the TTBattle and creating new graphics

August 2022 Progress Update

Happy August! We hope everyone is continuing to stay happy and healthy. Here’s what we were up to during July!

The Last Province Update

Yes you’ve read the title right. We’re done! Well kinda. There’s a few spoiler areas that need to be sorted out still, but we can’t show that, right? So that means today we’ll be showing off the “mostly final” overworld.

It’s been a lot of hard work over the past few months! We’d also like to thank everyone who came and hung out during streams while we worked on this. We’ve come a long way!

QOL Improvements

One focus for us in the last month was adding some QOL improvements. For example, we added in Skit Skipping! We also adjusted the inventory screen so that character portraits will always be shown, and adjusted the inventory battle items to auto assign when new items are gained.

The auto assign is particularly important since at the beginning of the game we got feedback that lots of people tend to not realize they need to assign the items they gain. This should help out a lot on this front – and as an added bonus it gives parity with the battle skills (since those auto assign).

Other than that we’ve also been doing some general performance improvements! For example we doubled the performance inside buildings!

Debate Improvements

As part of our effort to improve the debates, the first place we looked for improvements was in our own workflow. After all, the faster and easier we can add and edit the debates, the quicker we can get them done!

Thus far we have been designing the debates in Twine. Twine was a great choice when we started because of the node editor and the fact that we could preview the debate flow. BUT we ran into a bunch of road blocks and sticky points:

  • We could not export Twine files to Gamemaker
  • We had to recreate the whole debate and all of the nodes and connections through code manually
  • Debates started to have over 50 nodes at the START of the game – not scalable
  • Ctrl-S does not save in Twine. We lost entire debates we had to rewrite if it crashed.

So we looked around a while ago and found Yarn/YarnSpinner. It seemed like a good solution since all of our pain points would be solved! So we implemented Chatterbox this month and it’s been a big improvement. A lot of the debate logic has been significantly simplified and it’s much faster for us to create new debates – after all we have to convert all the old ones over!

We’re hoping to finish off this round of improvements this month so that creating new debates will go more smoothly.

What’s Next?

Our major goals for the next little while will be focused more on planning and general improvements. We will be:

  • Starting on expanding the TTBattle and creating new graphics
  • Finishing the Debate Technical Improvements
  • Designing some end of game dungeons & puzzles
  • Adding Overworld VFX
  • Gamepad support

July 2022 Progress Update

Happy July! We’re entering into the swing of summer, which means we’re leaving the first half of the year behind. Let’s take a look at what we’ve gotten done over the past month and so far this year!

Province Update

One of our biggest focuses for the last half of the year was completing the final province/biome. In particular, the last two months we heavily focused on the capital – Ziacia. This month, we completed it.

June 2022
July 2022

Now doesn’t that look great? The province has also come along, and is looking quite good!

We’ve got just a handful of maps/levels left to knock out of the park! Transition maps along the upper left and right, and a little bit of the core province to the bottom.

Naturally we fell a little behind from the storm last month (which we are still dealing with), but we’re hoping to finish most of this during July. The areas that won’t be completed (mostly to the right) have some gameplay mechanics we need to sort out first so we don’t need to redo them later. No need to make them pretty if we need to move all the roads around for plot reasons.

However, all in all, this goal is pretty much completed, which means the overworld of Gataela is just about done! Wow.

Rewrite & Skits

A big big BIG thing we have also been working on over the past WHILE has been the end of game rewrite & their related skits. As a reminder, Gataela has been in active development for just over 10 years now. The development of the game also started plot-first. We didn’t start with visuals, programming or level design – just the narrative and the game script. As you can imagine, it’s the oldest part of the game and hasn’t aged as well as we would’ve liked.

The purpose of the end of game rewrite was to refresh everything, make gameplay adjustments, fix some logical inconsistencies among other things. We scrapped a lot of old dialogue, we rewrote entire sections, we moved the locations of events and all sorts of things.

It’s nice to now have this done although we will likely revisit over the next while and make small tweaks here and there as needed.

Passive Animals, SFXs, Portraits and More

Now as for all the other stuff the team has been working on – and there’s a lot. Here’s a quick round up of some of the other accomplishments:

  • Passive Animals – We’ve got cows, we’ve got pigs, we’ve got chickens, we’ve got sheep. We’ve got horses, dogs, cats, birds, bugs, squirrels, mice, crabs and even a capybara. Owen has done an amazing job getting all these different animals done and we’re looking forward to adding them to the game and getting the worlds to feel more alive.
  • Emote Bubbles, VFX and UI Animations – We’ve also been expanding the number of emote bubbles to express more in cutscenes. On top of that, we have more overworld VFX and even some UI animation designs to help everything feel more polished. Once again, thanks to Owen’s hard work. We’re looking forward to showcasing a lot of these things as we move into the second half of the year.
  • SFXs – We highlighted this earlier in the year, but thanks to Chris’ amazing work, all of the SFXs have been updated for the new battle animations!
  • Debate Portraits & Designs – We also can’t forget the great work Cie has been doing to finish up the remaining debate portraits and character designs.

Gataela’s Level Design

In case you missed it, we did a presentation about Gataela’s Level Design for Dirty Rectangles. The VOD is available here, and if you are just interested in the presentation slides they are available here. Thanks for everyone who came out to listen to us talk about our recent work!

What’s Next?

Now that a lot of our major projects for the first half of the year are complete – just what are our plans for the second half? Well – it’s something like this:

July will focus on finishing up about half of the remaining provincial maps that have not been updated. These are mainly the transitions to the left, and some of the central maps. We’re also planning to add some of the VFX work to the world, work on some usability features (ex. skipping skits) and a couple small bug fixes.

Moving out of July and into the second half of the year our goals are the following:

  • Add game controller support
  • Update UI to work with gamepad
  • Add some UI animations and polish
  • Features – Skip Skits & Cutscenes
  • VFX & visual improvements
  • Debate battle rewrites & improvements
  • TTBattle improvements, rebalancing and expansion
  • Add cutscenes & skits
  • Complete the rest of the province

That’s a lot coming up and we’re hoping to slowly complete them over the next little while. In the meantime, we hope everyone has a relaxing summer and we’ll see you next month!