Creating An 8-Bit Text Adventure – A Developer Diary, Part 3

Work on the game had changed up to this point so my approach to penning this diary has changed as well. I’ve moved on now from the day-by-day stage with tasks on the game to a more drawn out process of development with a lot of the work now taking longer or being done in larger chunks at a time so I felt that it wasn’t really appropriate (or likely to be even remotely entertaining or informative) to bring you regular updates with me doing little more than telling you the same thing ad infinitum.

In all honesty, the last few weeks have been spread quite thinly. Our daughter has been preparing for her high school prom so a lot of my spare time has been split between family time and trying to do everything I could to raise all the money we needed to pay for everything that she wanted to make the night as special as possible and one that she would never forget.

Back onto the whole point of this post though, and the latest development session for Final Breath, and this time I was going to take my work on the game in a slightly different direction. I’d mainly spent a bit of time doing some thinking and planning work over the few days prior to going into this next stage of development – nothing too heavy but really I just wanted to spend some time having some personal “me” time so this was the first chance of really getting back to the game itself.

So instead of continuing the approach I had been taking from the start, the next stage for me was to leave the PC alone completely or at least for the initial phase and go right back to the beginning when I first started with my original Commodore 64… pen and paper.

At this stage I’m working on a few things in parallel, all of which will come together – hopefully – to form the completed game. The first step, for me at least, is the map for the game’s setting which will have all of the core rooms, hidden locations (if I decide to put any in) and all of the room descriptions.

As I’ve started creating these and the map, I’m creating puzzles for each room where appropriate to guide the player along the adventure. Initially I’m only creating a few basic puzzles to get the player from A to B and to set the story in motion but as the map grows and all of the locations are in place I’ll then work backwards from the game’s conclusion creating all of the puzzles that will need to be solved for each of the game’s multiple endings.

One decision I still haven’t made yet – and it’s something I’ll probably try to think about more as I create the puzzles themselves – is whether they need to be solved in a specific order or whether they can be solved in a completely random order to complete the game. I know that some puzzles won’t be able to be tackled until certain conditions have been met, but I haven’t decided if I’ll make the entire game work in this manner or give players more freedom in the way they play and complete the game.

One thing that I have decided on at this stage is that the game will have a dual scoring system. At the end of the game – whether you complete it successfully or if you fail – you’ll be presented with a brief summary plus your final scores. The first will be points awarded for solving various puzzles throughout play, but the second will be a bonus score based on the number of Easter Eggs that you uncover in the game that I mentioned last time. They’re not essential in order to complete the game, but I wanted to put something extra in for a little bit of fun and perhaps to add a little replay value into the game as well.

Some will be fairly subtle and many casual players won’t even notice that they are there but the scoring system will be operating behind the scenes so it won’t be an intrusive element of the game. The last thing I want is for players to explore and interact with the game, discover an Easter Egg and then have it spoiled by an irritating message on screen telling them that they’ve found one. I’d rather keep it subdued and leave the player to find the Eggs for themselves. If they notice them during play then that’s great and as long as the relevant conditions are met they’ll earn the points. Some will be passive and points will be earned automatically whereas others will require a little more effort to achieve but the rewards will certainly be worth it!

Finally, you’ll remember last time that I revealed the game’s title – Final Breath and no doubt at this point you’re wondering just what the game is actually about. Over the coming weeks I’ll start to reveal some very basic plot and background details to help set the scene for the game to give you an idea of what to expect when you eventually get to play it when it’s released, but for now I’ll start with the basics…

Set in the future (I’m not locking it down to any particular time-frame so I don’t get caught out with tech-related issues with the plot or anything that might happen in the storyline), you take on the role of a crewmember onboard a ship. I’ve still got to work out what type of ship it is, but for the purpose of the game it’s not important. There’s been an accident and the ship’s life support systems have been damaged. The air supply is running out, the clock is ticking, the rest of the ship’s crew are in stasis hoping to be rescued… As for you? What happens next is up to you!

And on that note I’ll leave it there! More next time…

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