Sunday, March 27, 2011

Progress, ho!

Over the last couple of days I've made a pretty significant milestone in my mod project, by bringing one of the biggest quests in it so far close to completion.  One of the early key quests involves obtaining an information on a crime lord called Bloodblade, and to do this the player is funneled in the direction of the city's slums by many different characters.  I've prepared a walkthrough video detailing one side of the quest.  There's a small bug in the video which has been since resolved, and some of the cameras/animations/dialogues could use some work, but it's nearly done

I recommend watching in fullscreen/HD since the in-game text is a bit hard to read at lower resolutions.  There's also annotations on the video itself, which don't seem to work using the HTML5 player (Flash should be fine).

When the player arrives, he/she is met by a gang called the White Falcons, who demand a toll.  Far from the standard "pay them/kill them" routine, the White Falcons have a dispute with another gang, the Drakes, that the player can get involved with.  The player can turn them down and continue on, eventually running into the Drakes, or he/she can elect to help the Falcons.  The Drakes have a similar proposition: their leader, Aneza, is consumed by revenge, and demands that the Falcons die.

If the player chooses to accept either side's invitation, he/she can then move on to the next stage of the quest, which is how to deal with the rival gang. Depending on the player's skills, different options present themselves: trap-making allows the player to set an explosive trap for the other gang to fall into, poison allows the player to bypass combat entirely, etc.  The player may also simply charge head-on, or with enough persuade/intimidate points, get one of the gang leaders to join him/her in battle for a much easier fight.

Depending on how the player resolves the quest, he/she ends up with a sizable reward, potential information on where to head next in the main story, and a new follower in the form of one of the two gang leaders.  Both are very different characters with different abilities, and I tried my best to make them both likable in their own ways - Aneza is a contemplative, extremely wordy elf who longs for absolution for past misdeeds, and Errol is your more typical money-driven mercenary-type, with a wry sense of humour.  It's never clear which side is the aggressor in the conflict or which one has the moral high ground, so I hope players will feel that the situation is open to interpretation.

Completing this means that I'm probably close to 25% done the quest content for Thirst, which, for the size of the project and the number of potential quest outcomes and options available, is already a very significant amount of content (probably close to an hour's worth of gameplay so far, with very little combat and virtually no FedEx quests).  For me, providing the player with logical and compelling options at every juncture is enough motivation to drive me to include new options, even if it increases the complexity of development exponentially.  The benefit in providing a true role-playing experience far outweighs the bad.


  1. Will there be a Yojimbo option in the mod?

  2. Not sure what you mean by that... pitting them against each other? Undercover infiltration? Not really, but you can accept the quest from both sides and decide which one to deal with.

    It's possible to kill both sides if you're willing to do it alone (if you kill one, there is a window where you can attack the other), but I haven't tested it extensively enough yet to say it works. Unfortunately, I might remove it due to the complexity of the situation. It's something I'd have to consider once everything else is working 100%.

    That's the problem with this sort of thing... bugs, bugs, bugs, and figuring them out when you have literally hundreds of lines of dialogue resembles programming more than anything else.

  3. And yes, I feel silly for not knowing the film. Sorry!

  4. Is there an option to get involved without any bloodshed? Like maybe mediate between the parties and find a peaceful solution?
    That would be more rewarding than killing one of them.

  5. It's something I've considered, but right now, as I said, I just want to get everything working. Thanks for the feedback, though.

  6. I am surprised you've never seen Yojimbo or the Spaghetti western adaptation A Fistful of Dollars because it sounds directly inspired from it. I understand the complexity problem and you wanting to keep it simple.

  7. I've heard of both, just haven't seen. :P

    The real issue here isn't so much that I don't want to provide more options, but at the same time, I'm not sure a "let's all hold hands and sing along" outcome is appropriate to every quest. I love playing the pacifist, but sometimes there are situations where people aren't going to think rationally and won't accept compromise. Add to that the problem of having two fundamentally incompatible characters who can become potential party members, and I think forcing the player to choose who to support here is more true to the spirit of the quest and characters.

    Another design goal of Thirst is to avoid "ideal outcomes", i.e. the player can get the absolute best reward or the objectively superior story ending. I don't want to reward someone excessively because they're able to hit a persuade check - every character should have equal opportunity to solve the quest in a meaningful way, and if that means artificially denying options here and there to make the others comparatively more interesting choices, then I'm comfortable with it (which is one reason I heavily de-prioritised combat and made the majority of violence avoidable).