I’ve been working on Vespers such a long time now that I think people consider it part of who I am. And not so much in an inspirational or spiritual kind of way, more like a lingering-chronic-disease kind of way. So every now and then when I see friends, I get a few “Say, how’s your game?” questions, and while it’s nice to know that people still think about the game it really just sounds more like commiseration than anything else, kind of like “Say, how’s your irritable bowel?”
Despite the lack of updates on this blog for some time, the game actually is progressing. Seriously, I’m not kidding. In fact, I’d say it’s progressing very well – better than at any point over the last few years. The reason, some of you may guess, is that I was finally able to find an animator who is willing and able to handle everything I throw at him. He’s so motivated, in fact, that I’m having a hard time keeping up with him. Right now I have a huge backlog of work getting all of his animation sequences exported and integrated into the game, which is a great problem to have. I’m flush with material and there’s enough to keep me going for quite some time.
The animator, as it turns out, is the same guy who has done all of the modeling and 2D work for the game and who currently has the title of Art Lead on the project, N.R. Bharathae. Animation isn’t something that he has done much of in the past, but he’s had a pretty good handle on it from the start, and the quality of his work is good even at this stage. There’s enough work still left to do on this project that it should give him a lot of practice and, in the end, a nice body of work to show off. Hopefully that will lead to more work for him in the future. In the meantime, I couldn’t be happier to have him – it’s been a long time since I’ve had such a steady and reliable influx of new material. (Note to the gods: this should not be taken as any form of jinx. Nothing to see here, move along.)
So where do things currently stand?
Vespers, as some of you know, plays out over three game days, and I’ve taken the additional step of dividing those days into Acts. So the game takes place over five Acts: Day 1 consists of Acts I and II, Day 2 consists of Acts III and IV, and Day 3 is the final Act V. A cutscene also marks the transition between each Act. Since my focus has largely been on just Day 1 to this point, we’re basically talking about Act I, the first cutscene, Act II, and the second cutscene. The end of Day 1 is basically what I’m targeting for the first beta release. (Technically, it should probably be an alpha, but I have no idea what I’m doing anyway, so who cares.)
As it stands right now, I have just about all of the material needed for Day 1. This qualifies as Excellent. All of the characters and their animations are done, including the two cutscenes, although a lot of it still needs to be exported into DSQ files and then set up in the game. Once in the game, it is likely that we’ll need to make a few adjustments here and there, but the mere fact that all of the material is sitting on my hard drive waiting to be implemented is quite exciting. Right now, N.R. is beginning work on the material for Day 2 (Act III), which is even more exciting, since I’m not sure if I ever truly expected to get past Day 1.
There is still the question of how to implement the PRAY command, however. In the text version of Vespers, PRAYing has an important impact on the game, and Jason did some creative things with it, particularly in the description of the effects on the player. I have a plan in mind to do something similar in this version that involves the use of Jeff Faust’s AFX code for Torque, but that’s not an easy system to digest. I’ll probably include some temporary placeholder effects taken directly from his sample code while I spend the time learning the system and developing all new effects that are more appropriate to the game.
The main problem I’m confronted with right now is expanding the game code beyond Act I. I didn’t do a lot of planning ahead when I first created the code structure for Vespers, partly because I didn’t really have a firm grasp on the way Torque requires its code to be structured. I also didn’t think much beyond Act I, anticipating that I would just figure it out when I eventually got there. Time to pay that debt, cowboy. It’s going to require a whole mess of restructuring, and how to do that isn’t completely clear yet. Admittedly, though, it’s a fun problem to finally tackle.
As for this blog, my goal is to do more to keep things updated here. Since my spare time is limited, and I’d rather use it to work on the game than to write, I’ll be focusing more on shorter entries. IndieCade once again is open for business, and I’d really like to have a work-in-progress submitted if possible, so time will definitely be tight. I have a few ideas for things to blog about, and I’ll try to contribute regularly now to Screenshot Saturday, just to keep me honest. More to come. We’ll see how it goes!
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