The State of Play

Just a quick update on where we are and where we are going. Like I mentioned before, we found an amazing artist who’s been making us a completely new set of sprites and tiles for the game. Our cooperation so far has been really good and we’re making progress with the graphics. Unfortunately I’ve been a bit lazy with the story line and design but we’ve made some progress on that field too. The story for the game is pretty much done except for some minor details and additions. The map for the demo version is also done and I’ll probably get a huge morale boost as soon we have all the new tiles and sprites in place.

Tuomas has been working on the collision detection system and making the graphics move smoother. After this he can start working on the actual game features such as the battle and job systems. He’ll also be working on some tools that make the game creation easier and faster.

Our next tasks in a nutshell:

– I will work on the dialog and job system and write an exceptional dialog for the game
– David will continue his work on the graphics
– Tuomas will finish up the core functions of the engine and after that he starts working on the game features
– Hopefully we can provide some early gameplay videos for you some time next week!

It would probably be stupid to give any deadlines at this point of development, since both of us (Pekka & Tuomas) are working on our full-time jobs, but we try to work on Prisonscape as much as possible on our free time!

Dialog and quest system

I’ve been working on the dialog for Prisonscape for a while now. I think being a non-native speaker is both a good and a bad thing – I can write basic dialog that is easy to understand but the language I write might not be rich enough for native speakers. I don’t think that this is a problem, though. For example, in classic games such as Final Fantasy 7 or Chrono Trigger the dialog is very simple, but the stories are extremely interesting.

The thing about writing prison dialogue is that that most people inside have ulterior motives and you really don’t know who to trust. This also makes the job (=quest) system more
interesting because it is impossible to know if the NPCs are there to help you or trying to benefit from you. Hopefully this can be used to create a sense of paranoia in the player.

We also have quests in Prisonscape, although we call them jobs in the game. Doing jobs is the most efficient way to get resources and benefits. Job difficulty will be varying from easy to hard and the rewards are given accordingly. Some jobs can require you to be intelligent or strong enough before you can start them and many of them also have time limits. It is impossible to do all the jobs in one game, because you won’t be able to raise all of your key stats high enough before the time limit kicks in. Also there are jobs where you have to pick sides based on personal moral choices (kill the rapist for a lousy reward or kill the victim for a great reward?).

Pixel art news! We hired an incredibly talented artist, David Hammond, for the project! You can see his portfolio here. We’re really excited have him on board, and the example art from him has been really, really good.

Punishment fits the crime

It’s been a while since our last blog post because we’ve been celebrating the holidays with our families. But now we are back in business! First of all, few general announcements about our progress and how Prisonscape is doing:

– Tuomas has been working hard on the collision detection and some graphic glitches, and the work is almost done. Next he will start working on the fight system
– I have done the map for the first part of the game and it actually starts looking like a prison now
– We started looking for a pixel artist and we already have a lot of potential candidates for the job
– We wrote short introductions about who we are, so if you’re interested, check this page

In this blog post I’ll be explaining what happens when the player “screws up” and how the punishment system works in Prisonscape. Based on my research, in real prisons it goes something like this: If you do a small misdemeanor, they’ll take away some of your privileges – no rec time, no books, etc. Offences like this are e.g. spitting on the floor, masturbating in public or shouting. For other offences you’ll get to spend some time in the hole. Your time in solitary confinement can vary from one day to months depending on the severity of your offence.

Then there is the ‘game over’ scenario where you fuck up real bad. This means you are put into a Special Housing Unit where you get to spend the rest of your miserable days or until you get sentenced to death. In game terms it means that you have to either start a new game or load some previous state where you haven’t done that utterly stupid thing. Some of the crimes that will destroy your future altogether are: killing a guard, killing another inmate, and/or trying to escape. Of course, you won’t be punished if you can do these things without getting caught.

Special Housing Unit

But because of the universal rule of snitching, you often get away with the killing of another inmate. Gangs will frown upon these acts, though, since it breaks the balance of fear between ethnic groups. Gang wars are always bad for business and nobody enjoys constant lockdowns and shakedowns. For this reason ‘neutrons’ (inmates who are not involved in gangs) going on a killing spree are in great danger of getting attacked by the gangs.

From here on, spoilers.

The game is divided into three completely different parts: waiting for your sentence in the county jail, doing your time in the prison and trying to escape. In game terms, this means that if you don’t fuck up real bad (say, kill a guard), it’s impossible to get a ‘game over’ inside the jail and the prison. But after you start your escape, the game changes. You are constantly in danger of getting caught, and if you do, you have to reload from a save. I believe that this will not ruin the experience, and I can think of many ruthless games which are still extremely playable and enjoyable. If you don’t believe me, go play ADOM or Nethack.

– Pekka