Thursday Report: A Fresh Brew

Apologies for the absence! Virtually all my focus these last weeks have been building the trading system. The process has been laborious, and still needs a lot of work, but is now entirely functional.

Unfortunately with this being my main focus, the opportunity for fun gifs, or even much discussion, is pretty limited. I've spent hours this week essentially swapping hats between myself and a frog, keeping an eye on values as the items are evaluated and traded.

As described in my last blog post, all items have a series of tags, and each character has a preference over different tags. The game crunches the number between what you've selected from the NPC's inventory, and what you then offer from your own. It then finds the multiplier to see just how good a deal the trade is, so the NPC can emote accordingly, and decide to make the trade or not.

A large part of this process was essentially rewriting the existing inventory system. Beforehand, all the information for the inventory was actually held within the inventory node and slots themselves. Each slot had its own values – item id, quantity etc, and so what you saw was the slot representing the data within itself. Any changes would be physically changing that data inside the slot. This worked fine for testing, but was difficult to mass-manage. This difficultly becomes exponential as you begin adding more and more inventories, as more and more NPCs fill their pockets.

The new system uses a singleton to streamline everything. Now a single dictionary value holds all the active inventories in the game, and new dictionaries can be created with new unique ID's very quickly. That ID could be an NPC's name, but it could also be a storage container, for instance. In this way, inventories now represent this singleton, rather than themselves. Having a more secure and absolute piece of data is much more reliable, and much easier to work with.

The conversation system is also more streamlined, allowing for many different paths and avenues a conversation can go down, and it now being much easier for the game to know how the player and the NPC will react given the context. This will make things much easier as I begin introducing more flavour text, or even add new systems in like quests or challenges.

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I'm going to be taking a step away now from trading to help refresh and reset my head, although there's still a lot of refinement and features that need including.

I'm developing a new 'global' menu currently. The 'fullscreen dim' concept was well received on social media, but it had a number of issues that I believe this new menu solves.

First is regarding the philosophy of the games UI. One of my original statements for the game is that all UI (while the game is in play) will feel as though it exists within the game world. Dimming the entire screen is essentially the complete opposite of this – it removes the player from the game. I felt so long as this was the only menu to do this, it was okay. The new menu is not perfect in this regard, but it feels more organic, almost as though you're pulling a book up in front of you, which suits the philosophy more to its original word.

Secondly, with this new menu the game world is still in-view. This is important because the game is both persistent and real-time. Dimming the screen obfuscates the world and creates a false sense that the game is being 'paused' or withdrawn. Also, with this new menu, the UI no longer blocks the view of the player character. As this menu will be used to manage items, it's important the player can preview how their character looks. Previously I had planned to do a sort of 'doppelgänger' node that generates based on the appearance of the actual character. I no longer have to do this with the new menu, and simple is usually better.

Lastly, I needed a way for the player to 'inspect' an item from their inventory. The inventory displays an image of the item, and it's name, but that's all. While a player's inventory is open, this menu can also be opened, providing a rich amount of information while still keeping the inventory in clear view.

There's still a lot of work to be done on this menu, and I'm still completely uncertain on how the contents will be laid out, but the concept of having details come in from the left side is working really well.

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An increasingly obvious downside to having a game with anthropomorphic vegetables is that including edible apples and oranges would be somewhat unethical with sentient apples and oranges walking among you. This was a problem, particularly because I liked the idea of having the garden provide consumables that give temporary buffs to the player, and possibly even recipes that would further this.

Upon doing some read-ups on different species of vegetations, especially their wider practical uses, I was surprised how so many spices and herbs derive from otherwise totally innocuous plants, sometimes even from the same plant but different parts.

And this got me excited – why not have the game feature these herbs and spices as ingredients to brewing different teas? Many games feature recipes for dishes, but I'm unaware of a game that pays homage to the sheer number of different concoctions of tea. After all, you can basically pour hot water on anything and it'll be tea in one way or another.

It also suits the tone of the game perfectly.

This solves one of my greater conundrums – what systematic purpose does growing a garden give you beyond it's appearance? Now I think I might have it. All game mechanics in The Garden Path should have basic three functions – they must influence the other mechanics of the game, they must produce collectibles, and they must feel good to do.

Once you check those boxes, the mechanisms interlock, and the watch begins ticking away.

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