I recently made a guest blog post on Failbetter Games’ website! Have a look!
Welcome, traveller. Step into this little hole. I’m going to bury you up to the neck. This will take a while and be quite dull for us both, so I’ll keep you occupied by telling you about recent progress on my upcoming video game A House of Many Doors. Stay still and listen. I apologize in advance for any dirt that you may accidentally consume.
The Kickstarter is over – has it already been a week? – and devlog updates should resume as normal here. I’ll also be cross-posting each update to Kickstarter backers!
We’re moving into a very story-heavy phase of game development now. Writing is key to HOMD and I’ve been doing a lot of it, with much more to come. But it’s very difficult to talk about the writing process in a devlog format without spoiling things. I do have some ideas for interesting things to write about, though, concerned with the process of writing for an interactive medium. That’ll have to wait until another day, as I’ve coded a new feature over the last week and I want to talk about that.
I’ve been working solidly on the kinetopede upgrade system, and it’s now feature-complete, which is nice. The kinetopede, as you probably know by now, is the train-with-legs that you crawl around in while exploring the House.
Over the course of a playthrough, you will be able to upgrade your kinetopede’s Engine, Armour, Weapons, Trophy, and Legs. Some of the upgrades can be bought, some can be stolen, and some are given as a reward – you know, the standard logic of acquiring things in games.
Let me take you through the different upgrades, one at a time. This will be a fairly bare-bones overview, using only one or two examples each, as I want most of these upgrades to be discovered organically through gameplay!
Important note: Please bear in mind that the kinetopede blueprint through which you select various upgrades is very much placeholder art. It’s drawn by silly old me, rather than HOMD’s art-queen Catherine Unger. Come to think of it, thanks to the wonderful efforts of my Kickstarter backers, 95% of the game right now is all placeholder art! This is problematic for screenshots, so please bear it in mind. Over the next 9 months you should see the game’s looks improve bit by bit.
Better Engines will make you faster, and will also change the materials you can use for fuel. All Engines can be fed with the normal, nebulous ‘Fuel’ you acquire at stations around the House.
But if you manage to come into possession of a Philosophy Engine, for instance, you can also feed it books and papers from your Cargo. The Philosophy Engine devours words, ruminates on them, and occasionally – after burning dozens of priceless grimoires and treatises to a cinder in its furnace – you will find a charcoal-bound copy of its original writing lying atop the boiler.
This is, of course, a marvel. It would be more marvellous still if the Philosophy Engine wasn’t prone to such vapid pontification. Still, at least it makes your kinetopede run at a good clip.
Legs are the creepy-crawly mechanical limbs that propel your kinetopede through the darkness, and they do what you expect – better Legs will make you go faster, built as they are to handle higher speeds.
If you manage to acquire the best Legs and the best Engine, the kinetopede really zooms along quite rapidly. I think this is quite important, as the amount of the House you’ll have to traverse in the latter stages of the game will be huge – by then, you’ll probably have had the chance to upgrade enough that travelling such distance is slightly less of a hassle.
A total of four Weapons can be equipped to your kinetopede at any one time. You begin with the “Plinky Susan” 35-lb. Long Gun – a piece of artillery with high range, medium accuracy, and low damage. Acquiring more and better weaponry will be key to your survival.
Each Weapon has a fond little nickname, because lists of things simply titled (for example) a “35mm Mortar” lack any flavour or interest. My favourite nickname at the moment is the “Old Bombastic,” a howitzer whose name I didn’t actually realize was a pun until halfway through coding it.
Unlike the other upgrades, Weapons are still a work-in-progress. I’ll have them finished soon.
Armour, of course, increases your Hull’s resilience in battle. There are a number of excellent and interesting Armours in the game, constructed from increasingly bizarre materials, but they will have to wait. You begin with some simple old Ramshackle Iron Plating – sheets of scarred, pitted iron haphazardly fused together. Did I mention that the kinetopede you first set out in is kind of a wreck? It’s kind of a wreck. That’s why upgrades are so essential.
Trophies are things you mount at the front of your kinetopede – you don’t start the game with any, because each one is designed to remind you of a past adventure. And remind others – some trophies are sufficiently intimidating to decrease your chance of being attacked by bandits. Who would attack someone whose kinetopede is adorned with the colossal skull of a god?
Those are the different available upgrades – I’m hoping that, over the course of a game, you will be able to watch your kinetopede evolve from a claptrap old rustbucket to a fearsome abominable thing that glides through darkness.
With the exception of Weapons, all upgrades are now complete. The next 3 weeks or so are going to be devoted to writing, which I won’t mention much, and also to finishing combat, which at the moment still lacks inter-vehicle boarding and could do with a lot of fine-tuning.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this dev log, and also the process of being buried up to your neck. I can’t wait to see what you grow into.
I’ll be back at the same-ish time next week to give you more updates. In the meantime, I hope you’re comfortable down there. Toodles.
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