Welcome to PolyCity

Let’s be honest, there isn’t a half rate actor, singer or x-factor judge who isn’t jumping on the coronavirus bandwagon to release a new book, album, film, blog or fashion line.

Well, If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me!

When Covid19 hit and the lockdowns began, everyone’s suddenly had time on their hands. For some people this was the catalyst for boredom, a drinking problem and gout.

For me it’s an opportunity, not just to develop my drinking habit and gout, but to set out on creating something new, a new challenge, a new story, a new adventure.

So here we go again, embarking on the creation of another point and click adventure! This time armed with UNITY and the fantastic Adventure Creator plugin, I’m hoping to bring the classic point and click adventure kicking and screaming into at least the 1990’s, in glorious low poly 3D.

Don’t worry though, for all the purists I’ll be staying true to the roots of a classic Point and Click, by requiring you to both point….. and click.

I invite you to join me on this journey as I try and keep this blog up to date as things progress. I welcome your feedback, your heckles and suggestions as I go.

Now, I better get back to it.. Lot’s to do!

Oh and you can follow the game on Facebook too Now:

A change is as good as a break… but a break is pretty awesome too!

If I was a cynic (which I am) I’d say this sounds like the start of an excuse (which it is)

As I’ve said before on this blog, time management and juggling a busy work schedule is a huge part of the indie game dev puzzle. My last blog update (with the new teaser trailer) was way back in mid December so this post explains why there’s been such a gap.

As we approached Christmas in the UK and our government shambled through a whole raft of new covid rules, regulations and Christmas covid spreading exercises, my wife and I realised we needed to take our annual Christmas house party online this year.

Given everyone is pretty bored of your bog standard zoom meeting we decided to really push the boat out and not only design the famed multi-round quiz but also design and write a bespoke point and click game for our friends….. As if we weren’t busy enough already 😆

The welcome page.. password protected to stop the cheaters (you know who you are)

So there’s the first excuse for a lack of Polycity updates, at the end of December I was busy making “xmas hunt” and the experience has actually been really rewarding.

I think by deciding to create something totally different using Adventure Creator, I was forced to learn and understand other tools and techniques, and find ways to do things quickly (as we had a party looming)

Every virtual party guest had a related collection quest, creating a branching structure.

This included learning about re-usable prefab logic, which was instrumental in having a game with around 10 (albeit simple) NPC characters and learning how to create a templated menu system that was used to speed up all of the user interface.

Our Living room and a collection of Cluedo style NPC characters

The game itself took the form of a giant collection quest, tasking our party guests with hunting for 6 musical Christmas bells around a complete 3d model of our house. Finding one item for a needy guest would reveal another item or a bell to add to the collection.

The game was filled with stories and real guests from Xmas party’s past and hopefully gave all of our 20+ guests some fond memories and a bit of fun around our house (and garden) without being able to be here in person.

You even had to venture outside to find hidden items the virtual party guests needed.

Whilst it took my attention completely away from Polycity for around 2 weeks, it’s done wonders for production techniques and confidence with the tools I’m using for Polycity. Overall I think spending 2 weeks working on something totally different, will actually speed up Polycity development in the long run. (as well as being really good fun!)

Or at least it would have done… But that’s where excuse number 2 comes in.

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been a bit of a mad year and I’m pretty sure as we got to the end of it everyone was just glad to have made it through (Sadly so many people didn’t).

When the Christmas holiday started there was an audible sigh of relief in our household, as both my wife and I have been working full throttle from home during the pandemic with very few breaks.

So we did exactly that… we took a break, and it was great.

We ate, we drank, we got Disney +, we watched Netflix, we ate, we bought Stadia pro we played games online with friends, we ate and we got addicted to Cyberpunk 2077, oh and did I mention, we ate?

Plenty of screen time of a different type over Christmas.

It was just what we needed and it meant I’ve entered the new year refreshed and excited to get back to Polycity development, and determined to get ACT 1 completed and ready for testing.

And that brings us back up to modern day, the first week back at work and I’ve managed to cram in a few long evenings pushing Polycity to its first ever full playthrough of ACT 1.

Exciting times!

There’s still a whole host of little bugs, niggles and things to tidy up including some new voice over which needs recording and some animation work using an incredible new tool I bought in the UNITY asset store new year sale (more on that in a later post)

So exciting times ahead, I’m hoping to reach out for some Beta testers soon, to give act 1 a rigorous test and hopefully gain some constructive feedback and reviews before forging on to the final 2 acts.

If you’re interested in being a Beta tester please get in touch via the Polycity Facebook page, tell me a little about yourself and who knows, you could be getting a test link to act 1!

Right, better get back to testing! oh and Happy New Year!

It’s teaser time

I thought it was about time I shared a little more video to the blog, as it’s been about 4 weeks since the original teaser.

I wanted to show a little snippet of a single scene in it’s current state to give everyone a sense of the style, pace and tone of the actual gameplay.

It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how my Point and Click interface is going to work. To most people this might be inconsequential, but I know to the PnC purists, it’s a big ticket item, debated on forums across the land for decades.

I’d initially played around with the idea of a totally retro, verb selection in the bottom left and an always-open inventory, harking back to the original monkey island, maniac mansion era, but decided instead to take inspiration from my previous games and stick with what I know (and love), the good old verb coin and inventory pop up.

This method not only speeds up development time and makes for less interaction trees but also leaves plenty of screen-space to appreciate the lovely visuals. (letting me practice some cinematography techniques)

So enough chatter, let’s get to it. A full, unbridled, 2 Minutes and 30 seconds of glorious point and click gameplay from the dark and dirty streets of PolyCity.

Please like and share, as always your support means everything to us indie devs.

I welcome your comments too!

Let’s be Frank for a moment..

Deciding to set Polycity in some un-named American metropolis, was a decision driven almost entirely by a comedy hero of mine.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the cult TV series police squad and the naked gun films it spawned (all 33 and 1/3 of them).

Leslie Nielson as the legendary Lieutenant Frank Drebin was simply comedy genius and during my formative years was the best thing on VHS (or Betamax)

The Legend Frank Drebin.

I just love that dead pan delivery, especially in his voice over sequences as he drives between scenes and provides exposition in the films and those incredible scripts littered with great word play, puns and broken metaphors.

I wanted to bring some of this style back to life in PolyCity and frankly, (pun intended) it wouldn’t have worked in a British accent, or a British setting.

America just looks cooler

That immediately posed me a problem, in that (if you hadn’t guessed already) I’m British and my attempt at an American accent is laughable. I knew straight out the gate that I was going to have to employ somebody to bring this feeling to the game and that of course meant spending some money.

With over a decade of experience working in the digital software sector, there’s a number of voice over artists I’ve used and known through my day job, but I knew that the styles they deliver wouldn’t really suit what I was after… It was then I remembered Fiver !

If you’ve not heard of Fiver then the concept is simple. You go on the site and look at content creators offering their services for as little as £5.

If you are familiar with Fiver, you’ll also know that NOBODY does anything for a fiver! certainly not anything decent.

This meant I had to bite the bullet and try a couple of people out to find the voice I needed. Armed with a little description of what I was after and the first 10 lines of dialogue from the game I paid a total stranger (who sounded like the perfect fit from his showreel) to record the lines and send me them back.

8 hours later, I had an email.30 seconds later I had a MASSIVE smile on my face.

Eric, had scored a direct hit, first time! An excellent husky deep voice, perfect accent and exactly the right pace.

The exposition driving scenes – a big part of the storytelling enhanced by the perfect voice

It was amazing how much his voice brought to the first few scenes and helped define that style, and just how much that invigorated me and drove me forward with development.

You can hear his excellent influence in the teaser I put out last month, and with that moody lounge jazz in the background it’s the perfect combo.

I’m looking forward to sharing another trailer with you all soon, when you can appreciate a few more lines of his frankly excellent voice!

Taking Bongo International.

So last weekend I mentioned that I’d detoured from the sacred plan and got carried away with a sudden new idea…. even though everyone knows it’s never a good idea to stray from the path!

I spent the time to write a blog post justifying why I ignored my own advice, so I thought it was only fair to give a sneak peak of what I’d been up to on my little off-piste trip.

Even though PolyCity is set in a sprawling American metropolis (More on that in the next post), I wanted to give it a small flavour, a little taste, a feint whiff of my home town.

Now Middlesbrough certainly has some sights, and some characters that would fit perfectly into a game like this, but if you asked a local to think of one place, one location, one venue that might be useful in a story about the seedy crime underworld, then you’d get one answer.

The bongo.

The legend lives on

The point at which I became old enough to legally drink (long after I began illegally drinking) Club Bongo was simply a place you did not go.

It’s thought that in Star Wars, Obi Wan kenobi’s famous description of the Mos eisley cantina, was a genuine, un-scripted ad-lib by Sir Alec Guinness, who had recently returned from a 14 hour bender in Middlesbrough, ending at the bongo, with those words echoing in his shattered mind.

“You’ll not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, we must be cautious”

These are not the roids you’re looking for

In actual fact, as we got older, we learned that Club Bongo International (to give it it’s full name) was steeped in rich heritage and history. (It was steeped in many other things too)

Started in 1963 by a Somalian who served in the merchant navy, it became an institution in the town, providing some of the best, most authentic vinyl only reggae nights you could wish for, it just wasn’t for the feint hearted.

Unfortunately over it’s long history (and coincidentally the few occasions I found myself there) it had more than it’s fair share of incidents and currently lies dormant, after another revoked license for a “spot of door trouble”

A dark alley, behind the bongo? yeah, should be fine.

So in homage to our towns most loved and equally feared nightclub, I’ve decided to bring it’s essence back to life in PolyCity.

And what can you expect to find there? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Progress?

When you manage to carve out a couple of hours on an evening to get some development on your game done, you always want to make as much progress as possible in that short time.

‘Progress’ however, can be hard to define.

With a story based adventure game, progress is often defined as getting some interactions hooked up to an object or writing some witty dialogue or fixing the 20 bugs you have in one of your scenes. All of these things directly take you towards completing more of the game, so they feel rewarding and you go to bed feeling like you’ve made good use of the time.

This is usually what progress looks like

But sometimes those precious hours need to be spent doing something else. Something that doesn’t advance the story, or add an interaction or create anything noticeable to the final player at all.

Sometimes you need to take a step back and create something NOW that will save you time LATER. Yesterday evening was that time.

After having strayed from the path recently, I ended up opening a real can of worms when it came to the main location map.

The can of worms dealing with just 4 driving cut-scenes

For any location the player chooses from the map I need to check the users progress, then prepare a cutscene of the protagonist driving through the streets of the city, with some witty voice over to direct the player to their next task and summarise the story.

The only solution was to spend the evening making a clever template action to clean up this mess and handle all map clicks from now on as the problem will only get bigger as the location count goes up!

With Adventure Creator these templates are called Action list assets

These scene independent blocks, allow you to define a complex, reusable action list, into which you can plug parameters.

This means that for certain interactions that you’ll want to repeat many times you can build a template, and use this same template whenever you want the character to do that action, with parameters exposed for some variation.

Phew! that’s more manageable

This powerful “code free” building block of Adventure Creator is something that I already use regularly throughout the game. Being a fairly well experienced C# programmer these are core principles, but the visual node editor of AC is just so much easier to manage and track.

Contained in each of those pink boxes (above) is a new re-usable template action which deals with camera fades, pauses, music transitions, voice over playback, menu visibility and finally the loading of the next scene.

The template itself (below), took a little time to configure, but it’s now a powerful, re-usable tool which will save me so much time (and screen space) as I move forward.

Inside the little pink boxes all this goes on

All of those interconnected actions (above) now only need to exist once, and can be re-used as many times as I need, by just plugging in 3 variables.

  1. The path/route for the car to take around the scene
  2. The MP3 Audio narration to play during that time
  3. Which scene to load after we’re done

Aaaaaaannnd Breathe!

So that’s an evenings work, and the kind of really important progress which no-one will ever see.

The joys of game development 🙂

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