PhD Log 03/11/2016

Over the past 4 weeks I’ve worked on the design of the game and written maybe 1,500 words towards the thesis.

With regard to the game design, I have made a fairly big shift away from first-person perspective as can be seen on this previous post. I spent some time playing games, waiting for inspiration to hit me. I’ve been hoping to achieve a detective feel to the game. I experimented with third-person, over the shoulder perspective, but was never satisfied with the results. Then I played Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders and I knew the perspective had to be from a spectator / fixed rotating camera point of view. Each room will have a camera set up which constantly looks at the player character. The mouse is used to point and click at a destination (click on the floor and the protagonist walks there) and to point and right-click on objects to view / interact with. I also threw out the dialogue plugin I was using – it did not seem to be supported any more by the developer and I did not have source code to allow me to continue upgrading Unreal Engine. I had spent many hours integrating that plugin into my project, but I don’t regret switching to a new dialogue plugin which is future proofed as I have access to all code / components. Below is a screenshot showing the new point of view.

20161103

Note the speech bubble above the non-player character, which is a nice little touch that I coded. Also, when the mouse hovers over an object that can be examined, a magnifying glass icon is superimposed, with a similar icon for articles / notes. These suggest affordances that I will document briefly in the thesis. The dialogue has a new look too:20161103b

That smiley face will be replaced by a headshot of the non-player character. The headshot will be particularly useful when my protagonist is talking on the phone to someone.

Another addition is obviously the protagonist 3D model. If you get a close look at him, you’ll see he is at least 50 years old and looks like he’s been around the block a bit, maybe reported on a war or two.

In terms of game design and development, I need to develop some kind of clues and deduction mechanism. The Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes (Crime and Punishments) games have good solutions that I can draw inspiration from (there is a newer Sherlock Holmes game, but I can’t justify forking out €45 for it). I want my protagonist to be able to examine objects, read notes, etc. and then allow the player to combine these clues together to make deductions – some clues will be red herrings and won’t combine with other clues. When a deduction is made, some action will be unlocked, such as a line of questioning through dialogue. There is a bit of GUI work to do in the game to allow the player to drag and drop, combining clues, but it’s very doable.

Once I test that out in the one scene I have, it will be time to begin the implementation of the first fully functioning prototype, with more scenes and characters, for initial user testing.

I need to write up all of these design decisions to get some word count into my thesis, though.

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