Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zarfplan: September work

A month not of dramatic improvement, but of improvement regardless.

Jumping in a pool now works. Jumping into various other infelicitous environments -- details elided for spoiler reasons -- all work. You can draw metal rods into wire, and pound wire back into metal rods. There are now four different ways you can set things on fire, with different responses. Some of these behaviors support puzzles; others are just to keep the world believably fluid. (If an object is described as "dusty", and then you jump into the pool, it should stop being dusty.)

Why four different ways to set things on fire? Basically, I wrote up one set of responses for the sort of "burn X with Y" action where you hold a match to X. If you hold a match to a candle, the candle catches fire. But then I set up the retort, a glass vessel with a bunsen burner underneath. That's a different situation -- if you heat a candle in there, the candle melts. Maybe now you have a quantity of wax to play with. If you stick the candle into a kiln, it vanishes completely, poof, gone. (I'll leave the fourth as a surprise.)

All of this is a parcel of work, or four parcels, but fortunately I don't have that many cases of heat-responsive substances. (I can ignore rocks and steel tools, for example.) Each rulebook only has to cover ten or twelve cases.

Then, as I work, I think of cases that run into each other -- for example, as I was writing this post, I realized that I have one object which gets damp in water but then dries off in the kiln. I added a rule to cover that. (Most dampenable objects just incinerate in the kiln, so there's no need for a special case there.)

All game design is exponential explosion -- but if you can keep the exponent down around -0.3 or -0.4, the series sums to a finite value and the process eventually ends.

(Or, I should say, the process eventually gets into alpha-testing. That will be another whole ball of melted wax. I know I'm missing things, but the important ones will turn up over time.)

Non-HL news: I released Pocket Storm! A meditative, procedurally-generated thunderstorm for your iPhone. (Based, as you might expect, on the Boodler sound engine.) I was also an exhibitor at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, where I stood and demoed Shade and Meanwhile for eight hours straight. Whew. (See blog post.)

On the technical side: this month I got the iOS Glulx interpreter polished up. Previously I had the iOS Z-machine interpreter working -- that's what I used to release Dreamhold. However, Hadean Lands will be well beyond the Z-machine's capabilities. (It already is, in fact.) Most of the iOS porting work needed for the Glulx interpreter was either easy or identical to the Z-machine work... but the last few percent was a bear, of course. The bear is now placidly licking honey from its paws.You can see the result (if you're into iOS source code) on GitHub.

This brings up a question, though. The same week I posted that source code, Apple released the iPhone 5. It also updated its development environment to support it -- but the oldest iOS devices are now not supported. (The original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and the first and second-gen iPod touch.) I believe it's still possible to build an app that's universal across all iOS devices, but it requires some finicky command-line work across two different sets of dev tools.

Does anybody care? When I launched this Kickstarter thing, the iPhone 4 was brand-new and plenty of people were still on older models. (I still had an original iPhone.) I intended to support all models; the interpreter code I've posted does support all models. (Albeit letterboxed on the iPhone 5.)

Obviously, time has passed. You don't need me to remind you of that. If I release the game with minimum specs of "iPhone 3GS and iOS 4.3", will that leave you out in the cold? Let me know. I am willing to do the extra work for back-support, but only if it benefits real people.

(Let's not get into the "Apple hates everybody" rat-hole. There are blogs for that. The situation is what it is, I have to decide how to exist in it.)

For October, I intend to design a major new subsystem for HL: shortcut actions. Enacting a detailed alchemical ritual is fun -- the first time. The second time, it's grinding; you'd really rather just type "create potion of foo". So I will support that! ...As long as you have access to all the ingredients. ...Some of which require other rituals to create. And -- this is the hard part -- without accidentally introducing any new solutions.

Yeah, headache. See you in a month.

Comments imported from Gameshelf

Nathan (Oct 1, 2012 at 8:22 AM):

It's starting to remind me of Farming the Apocalypse, only less interesting.

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