Prisonscape Alpha 3 Release

This is probably the last bigger alpha release, hopefully the next ones will be out much faster. I had to throw away the previous combat code and think up a better system. Normally I don’t like doing heavy refactoring this far in a project, but it was mandatory (for my sanity) in this case.

Alpha 4 and Alpha 5 will still be heavily concentrated on combat, we are still missing stuff like: animations, particles, sound effects, ranged attacks, henchmen and consequences. Once those are implemented, then we can say “We are looking so damn good”.

List of completed stuff:

Game

  • combat v2: complete refactoring
  • combat v2: new script API
  • combat v2: larger combat levels
  • combat v2: free look
  • combat v2: flee spots
  • combat v2: simple enemy AI
  • combat v2: action turn bar v1
  • combat v2: smooth scroll camera
  • fix bug where item locations are not removed when the item is taken
  • add setPlayerSpawn() to LevelAPI
  • add game debug command: show trigger areas
  • fix bug where player activation line is not aligned properly after a cutscene
  • add trigger actions to trigger areas: STOP_PLAYER -> causes player to stop
  • pass target level as a program argument, not as a property
  • implement zooming in and out
  • implement transitions between all levels

Editor

  • only set the background tile when increasing level dimensions
  • fix bug where tile debug data is not shown when increasing level dimensions
  • pass target level as a program argument, not as a property
  • only show level files that can be loaded
  • implement zooming in and out
  • implement free spawn placement
  • add level editor debug command: show trigger areas

Engine

  • fix all warning generated by -Xlint:all
  • fix compile time warnings
  • fix world object selection in level editor (can still be improved)
  • refactor java2d rendering code
  • refactor opengl rendering code
  • update JOGL

Working on Prisonscape Alpha 3

Short update on where we are at:

It’s looking like the combat system needs to be split into two alpha releases. Currently I’m working on completely refactoring the combat model, adding stuff like side information, custom AI scripts etc. Pekka finished the design of the new combat in September, I just need implement it so that we can start tinkering with the details.

I naively thought that I could build on the existing system but it was just a pile of garbage built fast so that we could demo the combat in general.

Alpha 3 will have the basic system and rules working, and Alpha 4 will have the animations, sounds and other bells and whistles implemented.

Until next time.

Prisonscape Alpha 2 Release

Only took a year to release.

Anyways, I recently started working part-time so that I can concentrate on finishing Prisonscape.

This release contains mostly bug fixes and code refactoring.

List of completed stuff:

– add license attributions (LICENSE file)
– add teleports to level editor
– add trigger areas (game model + level editor)
– fix all bugs found from Alpha 1
– refactor texture atlas creation process
– update all libraries
– upgrade to Java 8
– fix redundant code style issues
– delete useless libs
– update lib folder structure
– update and clean build file

Alpha 3 will contain Consequences and Drug Effects, maybe some improvements to the combat as well.

Once there’s more stuff to show I’ll be posting screenshots on our forums at the RPG Codex.

Prisonscape Alpha 2

Hello hello,

We’ve been working on Alpha 2 for a while now and hopefully it will be out in July.

Alpha 2 will have few engine related things I’ve been working on, mainly a refactoring of our asset pipeline so that, for example, Pekka can add new textures easily.

As for features, consequences after combat is a big one we’ve been wanting to get right. Now fights in Prisonscape don’t matter as there are no real consequences, they guy you killed or injured just disappears without any blowback to you or your status inside the prison.

We don’t want combat to be just another grind for experience and items. Even though we’re not aiming for realism, it would be kind of funny to just slaughter groups of inmates like you’d do in Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy. We’d like the fights to be harder (and maybe longer) and have both positive and negative effects during the game.

Anyways, stay tuned!

Back to work, you lazy piece of shit

Here’s a confession which to most of you shouldn’t come as a surprise: We have been way too lazy with the game development lately. It would be easy to blame this on realities of life, but it’s not just that – sometimes your work becomes this enormous hurdle
which seems impossible to overcome. When you haven’t worked on the code/script for months, you tend to forget where you were, what you were supposed to do or even what has been done. Because of this, it is challenging to get to that flow-like state where
you bang on your keyboard and something magical happens. Basically, I haven’t done any development for Prisonscape in months.

courtroom-01

It seems that I have been trapped in a world of instant gratification for a while now, and this needs to change. I am actually the only one of the team who had no other than made up reasons explaining the lack of development. It’s not a writer’s block, per se, I just got overwhelmed by the complexity of the game at its current state (you REALLY should make your first game simple!). I got even more discouraged after our first alpha wasn’t very successful due to several bugs and plain bad writing and designing.

riot-scene-big

So, here  we are. A lot of people have already forgotten Prisonscape, and those who are still checking it from time to time probably think that it’s yet another game that’ll never be finished. But I’m not gonna let that happen. We’re not gonna let that happen. I think the game still has crazy potential to become an interesting roleplaying game in a very interesting setting. I think we already we have plenty of great material for the game. I think that at times the writing is good, and the characters are interesting.

I think we can do this, we’ll just have to get back to work. Actually, I already started.

Prisonscape Alpha 1

Hello!

We started alpha testing in the beginning of August, and soon we’ll be releasing Alpha 2. You can follow alpha and general discussion here.

We’re still accepting alpha testers, please only apply if you don’t mind testing a half-finished game. Send email to contact@heaviestmatter.com for info.

Onwards, to alpha!

We’ve been quiet for a long time, but we have not been idle. Prisonscape has progressed slowly but surely towards the alpha phase, which will be started in the upcoming weeks. We’ll also start releasing gameplay videos during the next months, now that we have more elements that are in their final form for the game.

Like with most games, the development of Prisonscape has been delayed for various reasons. In this blog post I’m not going to talk about that, instead I’ll show you all the cool stuff we have done. Some of these are old, some new. Without further adieu, I present Prisonscape:



 

EGX Rezzed 2015 and development news

Pekka will be hitting the road again to show Prisonscape at Rezzed. This year Rezzed will be held at Tobacco Dock, London, UK.

We won’t have a stand there but Pekka can show you a quick demo on his laptop. The reason we don’t have stand is that we feel the game is still in really early alpha stages and it doesn’t have all the features (and polish!) we want to show off. It is getting there, though.

On that note, we discussed earlier that how should we demo Prisonscape in a live setting? It’s not a flashy action or platformer game, some of the game is fairly slow paced where you talk to NPCs and think on how to solve a quest. One solution is that we make a short scenario where the character already has some skills and levels, and then we put you in a tough situation, e.g. you need to solve certain quests in 10 turns or else the character is put in solitary confinement. That’s one idea… do you guys have any suggestions?

As for development, recently I finished saving and loading for Prisonscape. Sounds pretty mundane, but it makes testing the game faster as you don’t have to start over again and again and tell Danny to “Fuck off” (Danny is first NPC you talk to in the game). Now I’m putting in the sweet UI graphics David finished a while ago, and also implementing character levels and experience.

We originally tried to a design where character progress was mostly hidden from the player, but Pekka noticed that the game then lacked a sense of accomplishment, which is really important in RPGs. So now we have “the standard” design of levels and experience: you level up and then put points to stats. Skill training is done by using the skills (e.g. fighting), and also using trainers in the weekly menu, which appears when the current turn (week) ends.

Alright, that’s that for now. Gotta get back to coding ->

Oh, how things change!

It’s been a little over two years since we started making Prisonscape. Even though some of the main elements have remained, a lot has changed, too. Let’s go through some of those changes!

First of all, in our early blog posts we wanted to make a game very similar to Chrono Trigger in gameplay. A lot of people argued that the open world mechanics of CT wouldn’t go very well with closed prison space and they were right. Me and Tuomas are both big fans of Chris Avellone’s games and especially the Fallout series. Eventually we started getting a lot of inspiration from them, including the tactical combat (more about it here, here,  here and here). Second thing we did pretty early in the development was simplifying the gaming mechanics – we reduced the amount of basic statistics to Strength, Agility and Intelligence (Fitness, Mental Health and Charisma were removed) because including all of these would’ve been too much work.

In the beginning, we also hadn’t hired an artist. That’s right, I was doing the art, and it really shows in this screenshot:

After that we hired David and the game looked immediately much better (and got tons of more attention from people, too!). With graphics, we learned the hard way when we used mismatching pixels for the UI – David drew these AMAZING UI’s but we ended up scrapping them because they just looked… wrong because of the mismatching pixel size.

Previous UI with mismatching pixel size. It looks fantastic.

New UI. It looks fantastic, too.

Initially we also shunned the idea of experience and levels. But after thorough playtesting of the first area we noticed one very important thing about Prisonscape – it was boring as fuck. It had no sense of progression and it was basically a walk’n’talk simulation. Reputation and items didn’t give enough sense of accomplishment while playing, so we decided to add the leveling system. There’s a reason why it’s used in almost all RPG’s.

I also changed the storyline a LOT. The first idea was that the game would consist of episodes or levels, so you would start in a minimum security, escape from there (easy) and eventually end up in max and try to do the same thing there. There was a LOT of branching, which would’ve been way too much work in the end.

Oh, and in the first design document we planned so that the player wouldn’t see any of their stats, but just an indication of it (“you are in good shape”). We also reduced the number of gangs from 9 to 6. We also planned several minigames (rewiring the alarm system, playing domino’s, etc.).

What have I learned during these short two years:

– Don’t use mismatching pixel sizes!
– Even smaller tasks can take a lot of your time
– Working fulltime drains a lot from you and hinders the game development
– Don’t be afraid to show your game to people, even the spoiler-y parts
– Start building your audience early on
– Also write some technical blog posts/reports, people are really interested in them
– You can’t force writing dialogue. Sometimes you can’t get shit done, even if you have all the time in the world

Happy new year, hopefully it is the year when you can finally play Prisonscape! 😉

Sneaky edit: One more thing – for your first game, don’t pick an RPG/adventure game with branching storyline, complex game mechanics and tons of dialogue. Just don’t. Make Tetris, or Pong. I warned you.

The Working Man – getting (and keeping) a job in Prisonscape

Thanks to the information Thom gave us on prison jobs, I decided to expand the job system in Prisonscape and during this process
it became a very important element in the game.

First of all, I REALLY recommend reading Thom’s post over on RPGCodex.

It gives the basic information about how prison jobs are given and how much they pay.

The second area in Prisonscape, the Miranda maximum security unit, is the largest and longest area in the game. One of the main objectives in Miranda is getting a job. Jobs grant you (a little) money, but the most important benefit you get from having a job is access to specific areas in the game. Getting a job is not based on merit, but who you know and what you are ready to do for said job. You also have to be in good terms (reputation) with people who give out these jobs.

These guys worked too hard.

Let’s look at two examples:

#1 The player has arrived to Miranda and he needs to find a job that gives him access to the commissary. The work pays very little, but working in the commissary has several benefits – all commissary items are discounted, and there’s a chance to get unique items (commissary workers can buy unique/new items before anyone else), for example food items (+ health), hygiene products (great for trading), healing lotions and rubs (+health), electronics (+crafting ingredients, great for trading), etc.

The commissary is under control of the Mexican Mafia, and their leader, or ‘shock collar’ is responsible for giving out this job. There’s also a prison staff worker who can give out this job regardless of the Mafia’s opinion. The player could for example beat up and extort some of the current workers to get this job (combat-oriented method), be in good terms with either staff or the gang (reputation oriented) or bribing (trading oriented).

#2 The player needs access to the workshop so that he can steal some items for weapon crafting. Workshop is organized by Nuestra Familia, who are very dominant gang who often resort to violence. This gang has a very deep hate for other gangs in the prison system (especially Mexican Mafia), so the only ways to get the job is to bribe the staff worker (which makes you very vulnerable for attacks from the Familia) or overthrowing the Familia from the workshop (sabotage, “accidents”, beating up people).

The Familia does not mess around.

These are more complex examples of prison jobs, some of them are easier to acquire and give you smaller benefits. But the general idea with all prison jobs is the same – gaining access to new areas, more powerful items and important NPC’s.