Annoyances all the Way

As many of you are likely unaware, Unity 4.0 is adding Flash deployment, as well as Linux. This places me in a bind. Linux may not be a small market, but the Humble Indie Bundle has shown that Linux users are willing to shell out the dough for their games.

But how am I supposed to test games for it? How do I monitor CPU usage on it and Mac and Windows? Especially with my game being locked into full screen by design? How do I release games on Windows that work on Metro and test those?

Yup. Sadly, this means I’m gonna need a dual-monitor setup with Windows 8, OS X v10.8 “Mountain Lion” and whatever the most popular PC build of Linux is when I get around to doing this (likely Mint or Ubuntu).

Triple booting is no easy task, however. I’d need to either learn the intricacies of each one to avoid self-destructing. I’d likely even have to make a custom computer with four hard drives. It won’t be easy. At all.

But, if I don’t do that, I can’t make sure that every single step of the user experience is thoroughly tested and working.

And speaking of the user experience, I’ve been doing some writing and design work, as well as working on the rewriting on the story. When I asked around for help differentiating my characters’ speaking patterns, people mainly suggested things like verbal tics and word choice. But I quickly learned that I had to be extremely careful with that. One character was intended to use the shortest sentences possible to show how impatient he is. This quickly turned into cutting words from sentences to the point that the sentences were grammatically incorrect in a memetic sense.

Of course, that idea was scrapped. Something I realized is that, since games can have voicing, it’s entirely possible for me to get away with not-so-differentiated vocabularies for the characters. The voice actors’ voices would usually be enough to make them distinguishable, I just have to make sure the interactions aren’t boring. One such way I handled this was to have their personalities reflect more in the way they talk. One such new conversation just before the final fight of the main character’s story route goes like this (omitting some stuff):

I welcome… the boss’ closest kin, Magnet Zakame.

And here’s weirdo number four.

Six by my count, Magnet.

Sadly, you’ve forgotten to count yourself in that, miss. That’s seven.

Urk, it’s weirdo #1.

Looks like your head was just fine after all. It’s just everyone around you. The weirdo count goes back down to six.

But you’re not a weirdo, Spark, so shouldn’t the number be going down to five?

Enough!

As you can see, the vocabulary differences are more subtle than any other character differentiator in that scene. See if you can tell which of the four characters in that scene is saying which line, based solely on their lines in that particular scene. It should be almost 100% possible. And then, if you take how their voices will be different and the fact that you’ll be seeing these characters as they talk into account, their vocabularies become less and less of a problem, so I don’t actually have to bend over backwards to make it work.

But there’s one particular design problem right now that’s annoying me. The user interface. I have to get all of these to properly display on the screen at all times:

  • Two character portraits placed next to five bars (their individual current health and stamina, as well as their Sync Points as they currently stand, which would be twice as large and stretch across the length of the two pairs of bars).
  • A small textbox and character portrait. It has to be large enough to see who’s talking and what they’re saying without taking your attention off of the action, not for being too small nor for taking too much space.
  • Time and money counters. Annoyingly enough, money is important at all times, as is time progression, so those have to be fit in on top of it.
  • If possible, a list of skills and their corresponding buttons.

Now, most games I’ve seen that attempted this have failed at hitting the sweet spot between legible and concise, so I know it won’t be easy. Examples I have on hand? Well, first off, One Piece: Pirate Warriors nearly did this, with less bars , no skill list, and a mini-map replacing the timer and money count. One problem, though:

Those bars are puny. That makes them hard to read, and therefore bad.

Kid Icarus: Uprising did something similar, but…

Time isn’t displayed except in multiplayer (which uses the bottom screen for the counter, so it’s irrelevant), there’s only one bar and no portrait (since you only control Pit), and the skill list on the bottom of the screen and laid out in one of the stupidest fashions I’ve ever seen, which makes anything more than 2 skills a gamble in multiplayer. In addition, the spoken text and the characters speaking are shown on the bottom, with the text and only the text being moveable to the upper screen.

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance may or may not be doing something similar, but it’s missing a lot of the stuff I need, and has a bunch of stuff I don’t.

It also uses circular bars, putting it solidly out of my reach to implement. Not to mention that the layout is cluttered.

In the end, I have to try to come up with my own layout. Not very easy, to do so and avoid clutter. Quite the conundrum.

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4 thoughts on “Annoyances all the Way

  1. Well, no one said you have to support all 3 operating systems at the same time. Its fine to just support Windows now (or whichever you prefer), concentrate on that at first, then do support for the others after release.

    • Thing is, multi-booting is best done on a clean installation, both for flexibility and so you don’t lose data. Since I’ll need a new computer anyway, it’s more convenient to set the full thing up at the same time.

      • Yeah that’s ok. I’m not referring to just the multi-booting part, but the whole process of testing and maintenance on the other operating systems. My point is you don’t have to stretch your resources thin.

      • Ah, that makes sense. Of course one would simply try to get it working somewhere before going for Getting it working everywhere.

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