So, I’ve been fairly quiet recently because 1) developing saving and loading systems has been a long invisible slog and 2) I’ve been replaying Morrowind (oops).
But with all the data that comprises a “campaign” in Exon being successfully written to disc, it was finally time to start trying to load it. Since I’ve told you the story of decomposing the world into text files in more than enough detail, it’s time to begin the story of reconstructing it…
According to this blog, I last played Morrowind a whopping seven years ago. How can a game linger on in your mind for such periods of time? By all means, it’s a massive game and so is best reconsumed after long breaks, but even across such gulfs it is never far from my mind.
Well, for whatever reason, those thoughts bubbled closer and closer to the surface and I could resist no more. I got out my old GOTY edition CDs, lay the printed map on the desk beside me, and stepped into Vvardenfell once again…
I hadn’t seen the 1998 Godzilla film pretty much since it came out. I went to the cinema at the time of course, by that point already being a committed fan of the big G’s Japanese adventures from their spurious showings on Channel 4 at one in the morning, but beyond that I have little memory of whether or not I actually enjoyed it. I certainly didn’t get it on video, and kept instead returning to the few Toho films I’d managed to tape off the TV.
In hindsight, though, I realise how much this film coloured my desire to see Godzilla 2014 before the event. When I fell in love with the original Godzilla, I fell in love with his moves, his friends and his enemies — the tail-slaps, the atomic heat breath, Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Gigan, Mechagodzilla, the Japanese Self-Defence Force…
98 had none of these. They gave him no opposing monster, no atomic breath, and even the American army lacked any fun bonus tech like maser tanks and space rockets. Alas it is not merely a poor excuse for a Godzilla film — it’s a bad film, full stop. It’s a bad monster movie, a bad action movie, and a bad disaster movie. It has aged horrendously. So as with all such things… Chris McPhail and I had a podcast chat about that!
I’ve been playing proper Dungeons & Dragons for more than six months now, in a staggering display of a-regular-group-of-adults-actually-happening-regularly (albeit through the magic of the internet). While we’re playing the latest edition (5th), the familiar bestiary summons constant reminders of my first foray into that world — the classic computerised 2nd edition adventures that are Baldur’s Gate and its sequel.
(Actually, my very first foray was accidentally getting a Drizzt book out of the library; I just thought it was a generic fantasy adventure novel, I didn’t know any better. When I got Baldur’s Gate and made the connection I was like “huh???”)
Thus I chose to eschew the most productive time of the year to play somebody else’s video games, and spent the post-crimbo haze burning through the Baldur’s Gate saga. (Though to be fair, as I’m pretty much note-for-note rebuilding the Infinity Engine dialogue system for Exon, it most definitely counted as research.)
Playing the two games back-to-back, I was struck by one major contrast between them: the respective presence and then utter absence of “wilderness” areas.
Right, so my last dev diary was mostly theoeretical — how can one ensure every prefab and pre-placed object in Unity has a unique identifier that can then be associated with saved data and used to reassemble the game world later.
Having implemented said indexing mechanisms, there are a few gotchas to report, but it is overall working as advertised. Which means I have begun phase two: actually writing the data out.
When I decided that procedural generation was too much bother for not enough gain and switched over to hand-crafting scenarios, I figured that was the worst of my development headaches gone. After all, the more data that is static, the less you have to worry about while the game is actually turned on.
Then I realised that you’re still going to die a reasonable amount of times during the game. Then I realised that although the levels will be individually smallish, they’ll still be quite open.
What does death plus openness equal? Why, my dear, it means I must let you save and load your game, because fuck losing all that progress (to death or dinner).
Oh, it’s been a while since we talked movies, hasn’t it?
I had no particular affinity for the Predator films until I actually paid attention to them; whereupon I realised that Alien vs. Predator is actually really good (another hill I’ll die on, alongside Battleship) and that Predator 2 is a way better film than the original. Erk!
Before you start bagging me, listen to the full discussion Chris McPhail and I had on the subject — plus our meandering writers’ room thoughts on where the franchise could have gone afterwards to have fun and make maximum use of that crossover potential…
I’ve got a couple further thoughts for after you’re finished listening, which can be found below.
For some reason, it has become a festive tradition that I replay UT2004. To the festive tunes of artists I never listen to at any other time of year, I will joyously frag my way up the singleplayer tournament ladder and… dream of how it could have been?
For the UT2004 singleplayer ladder has a “team management” mechanic that ultimately offers nothing but fires my creative juices right up.