In short, he offers Emotioneering as the solution to the 'problem' but he never pin points exactly what he thinks that problem is. Not to my satisfaction, anyway. The first three chapters of the book are an extended forward, pitching the sale for his Emotioneering idea. In them he covers everything from the political difficulties of developers writing their own dialogue (instead of hiring a professional writer) to the dangers of being fleeced by Hollywood agents. Through soapbox oratory and vague anecdotes, heavy with self-aggrandisement, he lays out the reasons for adding emotional 'depth' to games writing, the financial benefits, enhanced marketing, the enrichment of the gaming experience, but not once does he try to pin down specifically what is lacking, or what Emotioneering is going to add.
Looking at NPC Deepening Techniques
Agnes is going to play the role of a sort of narrator; her dialogue will serve to cue events to the player as they are pushed along by our timeline, so lets begin by writing in those cues for each event...
Starting on the script proper.
We've covered a lot of this chapter already but it's worth a quick recap. Freeman introduces his 'Character Diamond', a list of around four (hence diamond) Traits that serve as an outline and a thumbnail sketch for major NPCs. You create a list for each character and then measure the dialogue you write up against that list to see if you're keeping the personality of that character clear and coherent.
Changing direction of the Fools Rush In series. Now we have a working model we can take a closer look at David Freeman's book, Creating Emotion in Games and implement some of his ideas in a practical situation.
The other kind of conversation we want to be able to implement is 'player-instigated' conversation. If the character is set up correctly when the player puts her reticle over an NPC character it becomes bracketed, indicating the NPC can be interacted with. We want the player to be able to choose to talk to our characters as and when she feels like it.
Finishing the discussion on implementing the dialogue and then a change of emphasis for these articles.
I banged my head on this one for ages. I rewrote scripts, stripped them down, tested and re-tested and still the hologram refused to jump to the label in question. At one point I even removed the additional parameters in the bots display code and ended up with a 3 foot high fleet officer running around the place. That was pretty funny.
The first half of implementing the dialogue.
So far the AI scripting we have used has been very basic and one script file for each NPC has been sufficient. The scripting for the Angels is probably going to be quite complex however, if we're going to have them become interesting characters. It's taken me a while to figure out, but here's the scheme I came up with...
Working out the structure of the AI scripting.
After completing the rough versions of the timeline events it's time to put them into place and play through the game. This is an important step, because even though we're nowhere near finished we need to start getting some feedback as early as possible to avoiding continuing down paths that aren't really going to lead us anywhere.
Time to review the completed timeline events.
The middle-game will consist of ten more Ghost Warriors, all medium-weights for starters (although this bit is critical when it comes to balance so we might change that later). Five of these soldiers will take up positions around the bunker at a distance, providing visual evidence that the Angels are surrounded, while the other five will assault the front ramp.
Finishing the timeline events.
The first event is a sniper team that move quietly into place and take up a position to take shots at the bunker. The Angels won't have any weapons able to hit the snipers and will have to close range with them across the open or else leave them out there and have one more thing to worry about later when more Ghost Warriors turn up.
Picking things off from a distance.
The whole point of defining Traits like this is to guide the writing of the dialogue. According to Freeman's system, the lines you write for a character should be measured up against the Character Diamond's Traits and evaluated as to whether or not they're doing the job of expressing those defining aspects. We'll do that when we get to writing lines for Aritomo.
Applying David Freeman's Emotioneering™ techniques to the opposition.
This time we're going to set up the end game. Fleet support finally get around to sending a dropship to pick up our girls, but they set it down a way away from the bunker. Typical. The Angels will have to break cover and make a last dash under fire for the safety of their waiting transport.
Sketching in the finale.
Two Englishmen, alone in the desert and unfamiliar to one another, will politely discuss the weather. I will always believe this to be true.
This time we get sand in hard to reach places and pretend we did it on purpose.
The Dispatcher controlling the explosion of the four shells is fixed, each barrage lands with exactly the same pattern and listening to it for the full ten minutes soon becomes tedious and, well, repetitive. It proves the age old adage that it's not the size of the bang that counts, it's the rhythm.
Making bangs and whimpers.
Girls are scared of spiders, right? It's a well-known fact. Spiders in the bath, absolutely terrifying to /girls/. Except that's just a tiny little bit of stereotypical bunkum, one of hundreds that add up to tip the scales in favour of creating the same boring characters over and over again. So let's have a bit of fun with it.
The first of the timed events.
Section 3. Create the Map Geometry is looking like a good place to start. I'm pretty happy with the notion of butchering one of the levels that came with the game to save time and work. Some mod-makers will scoff at such wholesale avoidance of mappmaking. For many, creating new levels is the essence of making a mod. Not for me however, not at this moment in time. I'm inexperienced at it and it'll take ages to make an entirely new environment and I want to get to the writing part.
Starting work on the map.
The whole point of the exercise is to try and implement some of the techniques in Freeman's book, Creating Emotion in Games, so we're going to need dialogue. A brief look at the theory implies that the Unreal II dialogue system is very powerful indeed, if somewhat unwieldy to write the code for. Suspicions are raised by one overiding factor: they didn't use it to it's full potential in the game. The conversations were simple, linear and compulsory for the most part with little in the way of optional approaches or complex interactions. Unless I missed something, of course.
Finishing off a first draft of the plan.
Now we're getting into the nitty gritty. Just the geometry of a level can be a massive time and energy hog, especially when the editor obviously hates you and wishes you would die. We've done our best in the backstory to keep the work as confined as we can but we have to admit that eventually we're going to need to make some kind of level for our NPCs to inhabit. Or do we?
The plan takes shape.
It brings to mind Book 3 of Alan Moore's Ballad of Halo Jones, in fact, still one of my favourite comic stories of all time. Moore had his female protagonist join an all female military unit and used the futuristic juxtapostion to raise all kinds of interesting points. Not that I'd aspire to reach those heights within the scope of this little experiment of course, but it's an interesting precedent
More thinking about a new mod project.
This is a linear sequence of events with a conclusion. In gaming terms it's just as full of opportunites for interaction as walking up through town instead, the difference being that in one instance I have to model a park bench and in the other I have to model the whole town.
Starting to write the plan.
Going over the Managing a Mod Project presentation again reawoke a collection of old mental processes. It's fun creating inside a game environment, watching your ideas come to life and then jumping in and being among them is something that only a few media can provide. Maybe that's how architects feel when they walk around a building that began life as a few scrawls in the back of a notebook, or how a composer feels when he conducts an orchestra playing a piece that came to him on a bus one day.
Games modding - for those who don't know when to cut their losses and run.
The Cassandra Project was founded by Kieron Gillen on the PC Gamer forum and grew from his original concept of a fast and dirty pop-punk mod to be a vast and sprawling project that would've made the ancient Egyptians think twice about the man-hours.
I'm going to host a download for The Cassandra Project here, because I realise that you can't spend a year of your life working on something without it becoming terribly significant to you.