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WLBSWHEAC Post-Mortem — Part Three: Development

February 28th, 2007 @ 10:46 am
by Vince Twelve

Part One: Concept
Part Two: Art Production

At long last comes the third part of our tale: Taking the Linus concept out of the art stage and making it into a playable game.

Right away, I hunkered down and got a working, playing, good-looking prototype out the door. I had the main game room with the two main characters walking around. I also implemented the screen filters.

The screen filters helped to enforce that old-samurai-movie/Saturday-morning-cartoon feeling that I decided on back in the concept stage. I had some previous experience making a movie-like flicker when I made a flash website to document my Japan adventures. I used most of the same principles including the randomly moving hair that jumps around the screen. For the television screen filter, I actually used a modified version of the background for this site to create the scan lines and then added some light static and a randomly scrolling bar.

Once I had the working prototype, it was time to find my musician. I went straight to Nikolas Sideris. Nik is a really nice guy in addition to being a really great composer and I had talked to him a bit on the AGS forums. I sent him the working prototype and offered him the following challenge:

I need two pieces of music: one for each story. Each tune needs to be completely different in tone and instrumentation, matching its respective story’s atmosphere and setting while being able to be played simultaneously and sound like a cohesive piece.

It was a ridiculous challenge. I didn’t even know if it was possible. Thankfully, Nik agreed to help and accepted my challenge.

I couldn’t imagine how it would be possible to make a tune for an alien fast food Saturday morning cartoon mesh with the tune for a ghostly samurai film, but somehow Nik rose to the challenge.

I’m skipping ahead a bit, but when he finally sent me the completed tunes, I was blown away. I made a small test program to hear how it would sound to fade between the two tunes. You can download the music test. To use it, press the “Go” button at the bottom, then move your mouse up and down to control the fading between the two pieces. Center the mouse to hear them blended perfectly.

Nik also created other music for the game including an awesome piece for the super-secret ending that, unfortunately, only a small percentage of the game’s players will ever reach. If you’d like to hear the rest of the music, download the soundtrack.

While he was working at that, I was busy building out the rest of the game. I first needed to get a bunch of text into the game. I wrote both halves out in English first. This was a challenge by itself because, thanks to the game’s simultaneous play, I had to use the exact number of lines for the top and the bottom. This meant that sometimes I found myself in a predicament where the top story had something very complicated to explain (like how an ancient god came to be trapped in a cave of shadows) in one story and something very simple (“I lost our fortune in a game of poker”) in the other. So, I had to avoid making the simple story sound like filler while that’s just what it was: filler.

After writing out most of the game’s text in English, I would periodically bring sections of it to my wife for translation to Japanese, importing the translated material slowly during the development process.

There came a point in development where I became very busy at my job. A bunch of new foreign teachers had arrived in my town to fill positions at the new schools (my town recently merged with three others) and it was my job to help get them settled and oriented. It took up a lot of the time that I would normally use to bang away at code. After being away from the code for two weeks or so, I found it difficult to motivate myself to get back to work on the game.

Around that point, just when I needed him the most, Nik sent me a message. He had finished the two tunes. Listening to how well he accomplished the task I had given him suddenly whipped me back into gear and the game was on again!

There was lots of stuff to do. More art for the ghosts, pills, globes of light, and customers. More for the opening and ending. Lots of coding for the various puzzles. It all started getting checked off my to do list.

But one thing was holding me back: the Japanese translation. It was difficult, with a new baby in the house, to find even ten or fifteen minutes to sit down together and translate the large amount of text. We tried to find a little bit of time every night to get some done but it wasn’t always possible. With intro cutscenes, customer orders, pieces of the Izanami myth, various hints, and alternative endings, there was a ridiculous amount of text. Looking at my code now, there were 1016 lines of dialog in the game. Which is a hell of a lot for such a short game.

I eventually came to a point where the game was basically finished except for a large chunk of Japanese and some music. I used this time to polish some rough edges and search for bugs. I also launched my sneaky publicity campaign during which I advertised it as two separate games.

kami1.png dmvsb2.png

Eventually, though, the entire game fell into place. I organized a few people to help me out with the beta testing. They found a few grammar and spelling errors, but I’m proud to say that there were zero bugs. Yay for careful and clean programming practices!

Soon enough came time for the game’s surprise release. Since that time, I am very proud of the response that the game has received. I knew from the get go that the heavy logic puzzle wasn’t going to please every player, and it certainly didn’t, but even those people who didn’t enjoy the puzzle seemed to appreciate the unique style and gameplay. As an experimental game, I would call What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed a resounding success!

6 Responses to “WLBSWHEAC Post-Mortem — Part Three: Development”

  1. gnome Says:

    Did I mention how brilliant those Postmortems are? Oh, I did? Fine then.

    (BTW, the latest Adventure lantern issue does have your interview and in a format your dad can’t comment on)

  2. Ilia Chentsov Says:

    There are some sites where the single comment is always the gnome’s one.

    And, Vince, will you drop a hint on the super-secret ending?

  3. Vince Twelve Says:

    Nice to make your aquaintance Ilia! I think I should be more specific with my naming of the endings. :P When I said “super-secret” I was talking about the true ending when you beat both the top and bottom simultaneously. And since your name is already on the Hall of Completions, (thanks for taking the time to add your name, by the way) you’ve already seen it!

  4. gnome Says:

    Sites? Comments? Where?

  5. Phillip Krasnoff Says:

    I recently beat it, I had to wait an additional year because I got so frustrated I just let it sit. I re-downloaded it, spend another week writing notes (This time on notepad, to be safe!), and finished it tonight. So happy!

    But I could’ve almost sworn I got a 5th secret ending about a year ago (Maybe wrong…), but I forgot the requirements for that one… I want to see it again badly!

    Let’s see…

    Ending Requirements:

    1. Normal – Fail at both halves.
    2. Top – Complete the top half.
    3. Bottom – Complete the bottom half.
    4. True – Complete both halves.
    5. Secret? – (Not sure, I think you have to get one wrong on the bottom, not exactly sure…)

  6. Vince Twelve Says:

    Nope, that covers them all! Perhaps the fifth one is what Phillip Krasnoff Sees When His Eyes Are Closed. No fifth ending!

    Congrats on finishing. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for leaving a comment!