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Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter Update #41: Game Editor Explained
Development Info - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 23 February 2013, 19:23:16Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman; Shadowrun Returns
There is a new development update for Shadowrun Returns, in which Jordan Weisman mostly talks about the game editor - and in particular, how the conversations, environments and AI work. Have a snippet:
- Chapter and Scene Introductions set the context and emotional landscape for the scene you are about to play
- In-world GM pop-ups describe the sights, sounds, and smells that your character is experiencing at this moment. For those of you who are unfamiliar with tabletop role-playing, GM stands for “Game Master” - the person charged with setting the stage and refereeing the action.
- In-world character speech bubbles provide short quips from your characters and our NPCs, providing insights into their actions. Of course, sometimes, they’re just for entertainment.
- Our conversation window allows you to have in-depth branching conversations with characters in the world, as well as GM narration that helps bring those characters to life. (Although we can’t animate the single tear traveling down the street urchin’s face, we can type it!)
The true power of our game editor is its event driven trigger system. A trigger is an action that only happens if all its conditions are met - in other words, classic IF/THEN logic. In many game editors, this kind of logic is created with a scripting language but I wanted to avoid that because many of us storytellers are not programmers (and don’t want to become one). So our logic is created by using context-sensitive dropdown menus that auto-populate with the characters, regions and objects the GM adds to the scene. After adding them to the scene, they can be referred to in the conditions and actions of the triggers. You still have to carefully think through the logic of what you want to happen and it requires iteration to get things to work exactly how you imagine. But at least you never have to worry about syntax errors! Through triggers, GMs can cause almost anything to happen in a scene. GMs can choreograph the movement of NPCs, change their AI behaviors, change the environment, and branch the gameplay based upon the player’s actions.
Character conversations are your primary way to express the depth of your story, so it was important to get it right for GMs to author and for players to consume. We started with a keyword-based system derived from the SNES game but after mocking this up and playing with it I found that clicking on a single word made me feel like I was not participating in the conversation. I felt more like I was performing an inquisition. One word at a time. It was like, “Sim-chip! Talk!”
Shadowrun has a “voice” to it, a staccato rhythm of conversation inspired by writers like Raymond Chandler and William Gibson, and that just didn’t come across by clicking a word. So we pivoted to a more traditional branching conversation tree in which players select from sentences that capture not just the facts but also the flavor of the conversation. One of the cool things this approach also allowed us to do was to integrate our triggers into conversations. That means the branches of a conversation can open or close based upon character attributes, skills, what the player did in a recent combat, what they did in a previous scene - almost anything really. Similarly, conversation choices can fire triggers that have enormous impact on the plot and gameplay.
Lastly, conversations are not just for characters. GMs can use the conversation system to make lots of things interactive. For instance, entering pass codes for doors or computers, buying a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine, or searching through objects on a desk can all be done with the conversation engine and a little imagination.
The update is pretty long and covers a lot of ground, so you'd better read it in full. (Also, pictures!)