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Senior Production Blog 13 (4/21/2017)

And here we are, a week before our final build is due, and my hands are off the prototype. Eric is not letting anybody add or change things anymore and it's bug finding until the end days now.

I helped Emily run QA (and I will be helping her again tomorrow) in addition to adding a few polish pieces to the game: two particle effects that can be seen in the current build. A dew drop explosion for when a flower bursts open, and a rain effect that can help sell more emotional segments of the story. Speaking of the story, additional tweaks and changes have been made up to the last minute based on the artists needs. We lack the time to get every character and location in the game, so to avoid overworking the artists various changes have been made, moving characters from location to location, adding some clarifying pop up boxes, and more. All these adjustments have been added into the game's dialogue scripting files by me, and are final.

At this point there's not much I can do beyond some bug finding, and recovering from a brief cold I developed this week. Next up, senior show!

Senior Production Blog 12 (4/14/2017)

We hit beta! That means we are officially design locked, meaning that I don't have much to report for this week. I made more changes to the story based on feedback, and at this point I largely have two tasks:

Find as many bugs as possible

And make some particle system mockups. In a last minute attempt to give the game more "juice", it's all hands on deck coming up with various bits of art and polish that can help the game feel more alive. I plan on getting to work on particles this weekend, but they might not be something that ends up in the final product. In the meantime, I'm playing the game and will be helping to run QA this weekend to try to find as many bugs as possible to make sure that the game is a smooth, polished experience from beginning to end.

Senior Production Blog 11 (4/7/2017)

With the completion of the story last week, this week was fairly light. I made some edits to various parts of the story based on team/peer/and professor feedback, but the team also asked me to come up with various sketches for improving the level select screen once more.

We have 3 game modes, and 10 levels. Each level has all three game modes, one for training, which introduces you to the kanji, one for a challenge, which challenges your training, and one for battle which is the final test of your training. Each of these previously has been selected by selector arrows and is slightly clunky. I created 5 variants for how changes could be made. Each one is slight variations based on different ways we've talked about how player interactions could be improved. 

Our artist, Maddie took these variations and improved them to what will possibly be our final iteration of the mode select screen:

You click on the mode you want to choose, it contains images of the kanji used within, and then you click the begin button. I personally am pushing for a double tap system, as having extra buttons on a touch interface is clunky and cluttered, but I am receiving push back from the team on this front. These reasons include "it's fucking annoying", and that the space where the begin button is would have to be replaced with another art asset that we don't have time to create. These are somewhat vaild concerns, but just about every mobile game I have on my phone uses single or double tap systems without confirm buttons just fine, so this will be something I address with the team in our upcoming meetings.

This Saturday, we are meeting up to have a work meeting, and I'll make the final touches on the tutorial, after a "will we/won't we" debate on removing the undo button, and write tutorial sections for our other two aspects of our game: Kanji Drop, our flashcard like mini game, and the Kanji Guide, a book with every kanji you've learned so far with the ability to pick any number of kanji to practice. As we head into the final stretches, it's a lot of polish and making sure players have a perfectly smooth experience.

Senior Production Blog 10 (3/30/2017)

I'm writing this weeks blog entry a day earlier than I usually do, as I just completed a major milestone.

This week, we reached just about every requirement for alpha stage in development. All game modes and systems were in place, UI and art are starting to be final forms, and we have early versions of our team poster and reel. 

But the one thing we didn't have was the full game in it's final narrative state. Part of this was due to the placeholder levels not yet having the Kanji specific for the levels implemented. Glynis has been working on making sure that's all good to go. The other part was that the story was still unfinished. We had our tutorial in, which tested out the full extent of our dialogue system: text boxes, branching choices, and overlays on the map screen, but no full story. That's because it hadn't been fully written yet. Over the last few weeks I've been working on filling out backstory for each character, starting with those with portraits, and completing it a week later with those without to help influence the future portraits. I did this so I could get a sense of each character, write the dialogue from their perspective, bring in flavor from each character's personal stories, as well as map out the story through various characters.

I wanted to strike a line between over congratulating and rewarding the player, and being aggressive to the player. I found a middle ground by creating aggressive and kind character types, and having kind characters stay kind, and aggressive characters open up to you over time. While the aggressive characters may have a bit of snark, they don't mean any harm once they get to know you, and offer to help.  This early story mapping work helped pave the way for this weeks work:

I have written 11 pages of dialogue. This includes our original tutorial script, which is rather wordy. There are 10 characters in the game, amounting to a page and a bit of script for each character. I tried to keep things brief, concise, and amusing, so those who don't want story aren't bogged down by it, and those who do will find some humor and charm in it. If we combine the character sheet, there is a total of 15 pages of story written. 

Granted, this is all first draft, but these are things we need going forward to meet beta milestone and continue onto the senior show, so I'm glad to have it done in advance so I can have some time to adjust it based on team and player feedback.