Posts Tagged ‘broken bottle’

Self-reflection on artistic messages in my games

May 26th, 2012 5 comments

I’m preparing a talk for the Indie Games Expo in London 4th June on “Art in the @: Lessons from Roguelikes on Pure Artistic Gameplay”. It’s related to something I’ve discussed on rgrd in the past, and something I’m hoping to speak with Jeff Lait about on Roguelike Radio in the future. How does the pure gameplay deliver an artistic message? I’ve consciously put work into this in Broken Bottle and some other games, with the specific thought of conveying emotions like guilt and despair, but without wanting to give a direct message. However in preparing the presentation for next week and reflecting on my own works I’ve come to some startling realisations about common threads in all of my games, even ones I thought I had designed as pure games.

In every work I’ve made power has a cost, and is labelled as dangerous or outright evil. Most of them do not have simple bump to attack, the traditional “easy power” in roguelikes that you can use for free. In most of them you are weak and fragile, able to die very easily. And in most there is zero or minimal progression, though the world becomes harder. A breakdown:

  • In Gruesome you are easily killed at any moment, and you can’t assault enemies directly.
  • Toby the Trapper is about an exceptionally weak character, who again cannot attack directly. There are more powerful abilities later in the game, but they are hard to use and dangerous to yourself. The ultimate power found in the game is outright deadly, and if used will produce negative endings. A high kill count also tends to give more negative ending text.
  • Unstoppable gives you ultimate power from the start, but with the caveat that this power will come back and destroy you.
  • Broken Bottle gives a cost to melee attacks, with stronger weapons demanding more stamina to attack. Alcohol is empowering in the game, restoring stamina and a little health and letting you attack children, but the theme of the game makes it clear that this is a very negative thing indeed. Part of the mechanics of the game is to test whether the player will become “addicted” to this power cycle or will wilfully shun the alcohol.
  • Run from the Shadow has you constantly on the run from an initially unassailable foe. All powers in the game are represented by negative icons (lies, denial, passing blame, etc) and the ending for achieving victory through power is meant to disturb.
  • Harrowed makes you more powerful than the enemies, but with their superior numbers death is inevitable. There is no winning in the game. The idea was to give a feeling of a lion being brought down by wolves.
  • sick peter makes you unable to attack and has you weaken as the game progresses. Even moving costs a resource, meaning there’s nothing powerful you can do. The game deliberately goes against the usual feel of WW2 games glorifying war, instead giving the real experience many people had at the time.
  • Rogue Rage gives immense powers, but in short bursts, and the theme of the game portrays them negatively. The basic bump attack costs a resource.

Now it could just be that I like to make challenging games, and these features all fit with that, but it does so happen that I have strong feelings about power and its misuse. I’m very anti-war and anti nuclear weapons. I also believe that the gratification in violence in many games is a very negative thing. But I never realised until I sat back and reflected on my games that these feelings have made their way into the mechanics of all my games. With games like Toby the Trapper I never intended to have any artistic message, but I’ve ended up incorporating these reflections of myself without even realising it.

I wonder if other developers have this? When we make mechanics, are there subconscious parts of ourselves we put into our games? It’s an interesting thought…

Broken Bottle on Youtube

June 24th, 2011 Comments off

A guy by the handle of ImpotentLper has done 3 “Let’s Play” style videos of Broken Bottle: 1, 2 and 3. He narrates them with quite a cool throaty American voice (rather fits the main char of the game, I’d say) and he seems to have a number of other interesting videos of roguelikes.

His preferred method of play involves abusing alcohol so he can kill kids. I do find it interesting how easily gamers become hooked on this optimal play style… Everyone has their own addictions, eh? He says he enjoys the story, but I have to wonder if he’s missing out on much of the hallucination texts. He also doesn’t seem to notice that his sight is severely restricted by his headgear later in the game, making life much harder for himself. Anyway, it’s nice to see my game appreciated by others, and very interesting to watch how someone else plays it. Thanks, ImpotentLper!

Broken Bottle 1.2 released!

June 3rd, 2011 2 comments

This is tweak release to balance a couple of gameplay elements and alter a few bits of text in the game.

Windows download here.
Mac and Linux users will have to get beta 27 of the T-Engine and extract the game’s module folder to the /game/modules/ directory of the T-Engine.

– Increased starting HP from 20 to 25
– Decreased junkie attack power and accuracy
– Added variety to player killing messages depending on enemy and drunken state
– Several small text tweaks and additions in story elements.
– Slightly decreased withdrawal rate (you’ll see hallucinations less quickly)
– Much much lower and less frequent hp penalties from heavy alcohol abuse
– Flying numbers above @ to indicate hp or stamina loss from drunk/withdrawal effects

Broken Bottle screenshot

T-Engine and ToME4 b26 released

May 19th, 2011 Comments off

The indefatigable DarkGod has released version b26b of his T-Engine and Tales of Maj’Eyal – you can download them here.

There are three main reasons for me highlighting this:
1. ToME4 is fun and you should go play it.
2. Expect an updated version of Broken Bottle soon, taking advantage of some new T-Engine features and tweaking a few minor things in the game.
3. ToME4 contains ~30k words of lore written by me, so if you enjoy my writing style in other games you might enjoy some of the story elements I’ve done for it.

Response to Broken Bottle

April 12th, 2011 Comments off

Broken Bottle has come fourth in a review of all of this year’s 7DRLs by an esteemed committee of reviewers (I was a member of the committee myself, but less esteemed and of course utterly uninvolved in reviewing my own game, though I had a lot of fun reviewing others). Needless to say I’m quite proud of this, especially since there was such a huge breadth of quality games this year.

Additionally there has also been a discussion thread raised on rgrm entitled “Breaking down Broken Bottle” – an analysis by Jeff Lait of the artistic messages in the game. Be warned that it is rather wordy, and my response even more so – it also contains severe spoilers that’ll ruin your enjoyment of the game if you haven’t already played it. Again I am proud that my game could bring about such detailed discussion and analysis. It should be fairly obvious to anyone playing that there is some attempt at the whole “Games as Art” thing in the game, and though some people have told me they’re not convinced I’m glad that it’s provoked a thoughtful reaction in others. A lot of careful design choices went into the aesthetics and the mechanics of the game to get the right atmosphere and feel. It’s good to see some success from this.

Broken Bottle: 7drl post mortem

March 21st, 2011 3 comments

I’ve enjoyed reading some other post mortems and figure that now it’s a week after the challenge I might do my own.

Broken Bottle splashscreen image

I made this splashscreen image to alleviate some coding stress - only took a few minutes with a stock image and some Photoshop filters

Broken Bottle was a vague idea I had for a while – I wanted to make a really gritty post-apocalyptic game, with a dark world and a flawed hero. I wanted something far more serious than the Fallouts. I wanted the player to feel unnerved by certain game actions, and I wanted alcoholism to play an important role in gameplay. I wanted a sprawling open wasteland game, with various areas to explore and factions to encounter (yeah, that never made it in). I had a general idea of a story about an alcoholic that had abandoned his daughter. I never thought I’d try any of this in 7 days…

It was only on the eve of the challenge that I decided I would definitely give it a go. I had planned before (and publicly announced before) that I would be making a sequel to UNSTOPPABLE, but as the Saturday approached I became more and more unhappy with this limited scope and this idea resurfaced. I was also disappointed to find out no one was planning a T-Engine based game after ToME4 won Roguelike of the Year. Finally on Friday night I thought screw it, I’m making a post-apocalyptic game, and I’m going to use the T-Engine. I can learn Lua and a whole new engine in 7 days, right? Initially my idea was to be called “Mineshaft Gap”, a simple jokey game involving exploring caverns and killing commies. But as I started writing an intro text some of my darker designs crept in, and Broken Bottle began to take shape in my head.

Picking up Lua and the T-Engine from scratch wasn’t easy, especially since the documentation for the latter is very thin on the ground. My only real programming experience beforehand is making quite simple games in FreePascal. I had never used other people’s algorithms before, and even wrote my own line-drawing and circle-drawing code. This was more than a step into the unknown – it was a completely different world. My only reference source was a small example game provided with the T-Engine itself, and the utterly massive ToME4. Scary stuff!

On the first day I stripped out bits of the example module I didn’t want (like all the talent code) and started getting the interface set up in my desired style. This took… a crazy amount of time. Simply setting up a little list of the player stats was a mammoth task. I copied code from ToME4, I fiddled, I tweaked, I went through error after error until finally it began to take shape. I made rats and dogs as my first basic enemies, and used the standard dungeon generator that comes with the engine. At the end of day 1 a very very basic game was in place, and I continued adding things bit by bit. Most of Sunday was spent tweaking the interface more to use only washed out colours (annoyingly the T-Engine over-rides this in certain areas) and gave a simple end-game. With the start and end done I just needed a middle.

ToME4 screenshot

Much code copypastad courtesy of ToME4 - many thanks to DarkGod! Wish my game looked so pretty :(

Lua was easier to get used to than I expected. The only thing I had to look up was how to comment. The T-Engine is a bit more mysterious though, especially as I’d never worked with multiple code files and object-orientated stuff before. Some things came easy, others were aggravating. Putting in an inventory system was pretty painless, even though I’d never coded items before – the engine sorts out most of the grunt work. Making weapons cause extra damage in combat took many painful hours though, as I tried various approaches and encountered problem after problem. DarkGod was very useful on IRC, but he wasn’t always there, so I was often in the dark, tearing my hair out as I tried to understand the errors.

On Tuesday I started writing some story pieces in work. I hadn’t planned to have much of a story, but it all just came naturally, and I’m quite proud of what I wrote (it’s the highlight of the game really). I had to physically stop myself putting in too much humour. As it is I partly regret the Palin reference – it’s just wrong in tone. The last thing I wanted is a game plagued with poor reference-based humour like Fallout 2. Getting the hallucinations/dreams in took some work, as did having them spread out the right amount so they’re not seen too quickly or so far apart that they’re never seen in the game. As it is I guess the drunken dreams should come easier, but I’m happy enough with the implementation. I also added in alternative descriptions to most enemies for when the character is drunk, with the intention being to have the world feel different when inebriated. I never got to fully expand on this as much as I would have liked.

Broken Bottle hallucination example

The story became important for me, both for its own reading merit and setting the grim scene

As the days went by I got very worried – a lot of important features were still missing, like negative effects from alcohol abuse or withdrawal, and every bit of coding always took longer than I expected. Most importantly I needed the piranha mechanics. The piranhas were an idea I’d had for a long time (inspired by Brazilian street kids) and the game wouldn’t be the same without them. With a bit of help from DarkGod though I manage to get them stealing and running away – the code itself is actually very simple, since most of the work happens engine-side. He also helped me with making them flee from gunshots (and with making gunshots even happen). I’d initially wanted the children to only approach the player in packs, but I scaled back that idea due to time constraints. I’m very happy with how they are in the game, and every time someone tells me “I hate those fucking piranhas!” I know I have done my work well :)

The last night of coding was painful, as my to do list was still very long. My girlfriend was staying over and she really didn’t appreciate me staying up coding till 5am :/ But I was still trying to get combat working properly, and every change I made just seemed to make new errors. I was sleep deprived from the week in general, and doing the most basic correction was an effort of will. Eventually I got the combat doing what I wanted, I retuned various things and got the game shipped out 4 hours before my 9am deadline. Ah, the sweet slumber that welcomed me after…

Broken Bottle piranhas

Fucking piranhas! :P

Alas, the game had some bugs. Nothing game-breaking, but the 1.1 release was still vital. It fixed a big bug with the piranhas stealing items (I forgot to give them inventories for the items to go *into*) and a bug when trying to kill yourself, whilst also tweaking a few things. I took the opportunity to add character sheets (copied some stuff from ToME for that) and removed HP regen based on feedback that it was too easy to just rest up between fights.

1.1 ain’t perfect, but I’m happy enough with it. It’s not exactly a work of art that will move you to your soul, but I hope the somewhat unnerving story and atmosphere will be appreciated by some. If I were to go further I’d add far more varied text to the game, with different combat messages based on enemy type and weapon type and drunkenness. I also had plans for achievements (well, “traits” – some would be negative) that never made it in. There might be some other tweaks too, like changing the effects of alcohol, and some of the dialogue could do with being more Americanised (I wanted a Grapes of Wrath feel to the language used). As it is I’m proud enough of doing what content I did get in and working, and the linear nature of the game doesn’t make it replayable enough to really justify updating much further. And, after all, it’s a 7drl, and my 7 days are long up.

Watch this space for a report on the highlights of the 2011 7DRLs. I’ve reviewed 28 so far…

7DRL Success: Broken Bottle

March 13th, 2011 2 comments

I have made a new game in 7 days!  And have updated it a little bit since as well…  I present “Broken Bottle”, a post-apocalyptic game with themes of alcoholism and brutality:

Broken Bottle gameplay screenshot

To download it you either need to download the T-Engine and put my module into the game/modules/ folder. Windows users can download this complete package.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, following an alcoholic with a murky past as he tries to ascend to the surface. The game has a grim and dark theme, with story elements revealed through game progression, and through hallucinations or dreams induced by alcoholic abuse or withdrawal. Alcohol is a core element of the game – living without it is difficult, as it highly replenishes stamina which is used up in melee (fighting on very low stamina will make you miss most of the time). There are also withdrawal effects if you go without for a long time. On the other hand abusing alcohol too much can be bad for you, and can even send you into a immobile state.