Game Design From Outer Space

The first update of our Betelgeuse project: preproduction work, mockups, storytelling and interface.


Betelgeuse Update 01: The Foundations

Hi! I’m here again to tell you something about the development of our new project, codenamed Betelgeuse.

We are still in the preproduction phase, so as for now pretty much everything looks like an amorphous mess of ideas, scraps of code and mockups. Nevertheless, in the last two weeks some form has started to emerge, so, I guess that’s good news.

The main challenge is related to the narrative side of this game. We pretty much have a general setting, but right now we are in the process to define how the world works, what are its rules, how people and sentient creatures move around it. This is science fiction, so we need to clarify (even it won’t be explicit) a lot of stuff about the universe, who are its inhabitants, what happened before the events of the game and so on. Simultaneously we have to decide how the plot of the game is going to develop in the future episodes, what are the secondary characters, their motivations and their role in the economy of the game.

Storyline and Script

We started laying out in a Google Doc all the possible scenes of the very first episode, the characters and the events. But we’ve soon realised that we already had too much stuff going on. After all, the theme of this pilot is solitude in a future world and the whole game is about developing a relationship. So we figured that having too much action would somewhat break the feeling we wanted to achieve. Marina is taking care of the script, but everyone of us is proposing ideas and possibilities. It’s quite challenging and the fact that we’re writing this stuff in English, but we’re not native speakers certainly doesn’t help. But we’ll manage – also we’ll have the script proofread during the beta phase.

Dialogue System

As for the coding part Lorenzo and I have started laying some foundations in Unity. First of all we are building our dialogue system (with the help of the super-awesome Dialoguer, which is going to make the management of nodes and choices a lot easier) and we’re laying out a dynamic structure which is going to change the dialogue sentences according to the current mood of the playable character. More on that in one of the next updates! We’re working on the animation system as well and we’ve already got our first character running around.

Camera Field of View

Finally we are experimenting on the integration between the pixel art and the 3D low-poly environment. I’m tweaking the lightmap settings in Unity while figuring out things like the background dimensions and the camera FOV. Here I’m a bit torn between using a FOV near the the Unity default (around 60–70) which has the drawback of distorting a little too much nearest objects, or going for a much narrower one (I tried 20 and 30 with good results) which, on the other side, is going to force me to ditch the skybox for a scratch-made stardome (mainly because with that narrow FOV is impossible to design a convincing starfield skybox due to excessive zoom). We’ll see how this will turn out.

Oh, and we’re making interface mockups too! Interface is extremely important for this game, so we’re already doing experiments to make sure everything works as we want to. Right now we are watching a lot of sci-fi, playing Netrunner like there’s no tomorrow and generally observing as many futuristic interfaces as we can. Hexagons are with us!

That’s all, folks! See you next time with some more news. Cheers!