Author: Pavel Kostin

Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #19

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Hey there, friends! Once again, I’m happy to see you back on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft traveling far, far away from planet Earth.
Today I’d like to talk about the achievements in our game. We call them ‘coffee breaks’.
At this point I should note that it was our publisher who originally came up with the idea to add achievements to the game to enhance its replayability. Ironically, the folks from the marketing department got this idea from Life is Strange. Well, we are always trying our best to consider our publisher’s advice, so we made use of the idea and even took it a step further. I, for one, think our implementation turned out quite successful!
So, most of our achievements are a kind of Easter eggs. Players don’t have to find a hundred items or run a hundred miles across the ship in order to get an achievement. Instead, they have to figure out a certain action (mostly quite logical). However, achievements are harder to discover as opposed to story puzzle solutions – as you would expect of Easter eggs.
The achievements are (sometimes) backed up by dialog or character’s actions. For example, if you take a closer look at Antennae A after calibration in Episode Three, you’ll notice there is something yellow frozen to it. But if you use the steel pipe with Antennae A PRIOR to calibration, Barton will snap off a rubber ducky. He can give it to Oddy later on – the duck will happily bath with him in the hot tub, and you’ll get your achievement. Another example is when young Oddy can carve his initials into a tree with a knife in Episode Two.
There are 12 coffee breaks in every episode (including the Pilot Episode), adding up to a total of 48 achievements. If you’d like to get them all, it won’t be easy! But should you ever get stuck – there are some wonderful guides written by our players. For example, Marc has written a great guide on how to get them all. Nice job, Marc!
And now back to project news: we’ve added German translation! We are still running tests on Linux and still aren’t sure if there are compatibility issues with some Linux versions.
So if you are a Linux user and would be interested in playing our game – please write us an email to 16bittank@gmail.com mentioning your Linux version. We may choose you for the beta testing and grant you access to the Beta build.
Meanwhile we are developing Episode Four! Thank you for your support and good luck.

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Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #18

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Hey there, friends! Once again, I’m happy to see you back on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft travelling far, far way from planet Earth. Today I’d like to talk about the dialogue in the adventure genre and tell you some news about the project as well.
Naturally, the dialogues are an important and unforgettable part of classic quests! It’s a great opportunity to come up with a couple of gags from scratch. And of course, how could we forget about the verbal duels in my beloved “Monkey Island” series, that were the basis for a significant part of the game. Even in the non-conventional adventure games such as Life is Strange dialogues still are an important part of the adventure game play (basically the only important part).
However, after spending some time thinking about the options in “Odysseus”, I’ve decided not to use the traditional dialogue mechanics. This choice has been made partially due to the game’s setting and partially this was a conscious game design decision. As for the setting, everything should be more or less clear here. There is nobody on board except for Odysseus and Barton (so far). So I thought it wouldn’t be right to implement the entire dialog mechanics just for the sake of communicating with a single character.
Usually, dialogues are used to introduce a new character players encounter, to develop the game’s story or to let players learn more about the game world. In our project the story and setting are revealed through terminals and electronic tablets found across the ship, as well as through character’s observations and funny remarks. I wouldn’t want players to approach Barton over and over again to hear the same line or to click through the same old dialogue options. We found it would be better to add new scripted dialogues at the point with a story twist that the player will hear just once, but this way the dialogues will surely make them smile. So if you like funny dialogues – I assure you, the game will not disappoint you.
Another important news: we are planning to to add full German localization (Pilot, First and Second Eps are already on the stores). The translation is made by a wonderful person – a translator Daniel Poljak who agreed to give us a hand with localization, thank you so much!
Also we are planning to add a version for Linux. We are not completely sure about the compatibility, so there probably won’t be any active promotion for this feature, but at least the game works correctly on Ubuntu.
Thank you all for your patience and good luck.

Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #17

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Hey there, friends! Once again, I’m happy to see you back on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft travelling far, far way from planet Earth.
Today I’d like to discuss GUI usability and the speed of character movement, as well as some project news.
Initially, during development, I was aiming to create an interface that would be as convenient as possible, and at the same time self-evident. That was the reason for interface being permanently present on the screen, for automatic appearance of an action interface when selecting an object and for scrolling through inventory screens. It should be noted that there was no special criticism towards the inventory, and the reviewers rated it positively.
However, with the release of new episodes that introduced new locations and puzzles on these locations, the old-fashioned interface began to get in the way. The most striking example is when the rope interface overlaps the action in the second episode, when a player selects an item from the inventory.
To solve this issue we’ve slightly changed the inventory interface. After the next update the action interface for inventory items will be displayed with the second click or with RMB click, with the first click simply selecting the item.
We are considering the possibility of hiding the interface, but for now we find this would be a poor solution, as the inventory opening and closing would take up a half of the entire game play process.
As for the character speed of movement we wouldn’t want our players taking overly long walks from one end of the map to the other. That being said, a ridiculously trotting character would spoil the game’s atmosphere. We’ve settled on a classic solution eventually – a double click instantly moves the character to the next location. Perhaps we will implement a hidden speed of movement setting for those who really crave it (with + and – keys).
In other project news – we are working on the third episode, and the largest part of the logical structure is already in place. We are also working on game versions for other platforms. The Linux version already works smoothly on Ubuntu, although we ran into problems with other Linux distributions (like Mint), but we hope to solve these shortly. Thank you for your support!

Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #16

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Hey there, friends! Welcome back on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft travelling far, far way from planet Earth.

Today we’re going to talk about the game story. Unlike other gaming genres (except for RPG, perhaps), where the plot is less important – there is no decent adventure game without a story. It’s not the item hunting or puzzle solving that keeps us going – we all want to know what will happens next!

The plot of Odysseus is no exception. We are carefully building the narrative from episode to episode, developing the storyline, and we really hope that it will turn out interesting. The entire story has been already written and the script is complete, so now we only have to recreate it in the game carefully for an exciting gaming experience.

Here is what I can share about the overall project composition: the first episodes, basically, helped the player to get acquainted with the characters and the circumstances, which our heroes are faced with. The third episode is the central piece for a reason; the same goes for its story. The first and second episodes were slow paced, but events will unravel faster starting with the third episode. I should tell you up front that the number of questions, riddles and secrets to be answered by the player will keep on growing. But in the game finale all the secrets will be revealed!

Naturally an attentive player will be able to guess some of the answers long before the finale. However the narrative includes several main storylines, each evolving from chapter to chapter, and all of them will develop and come to a logical conclusion in the final episode.

And now, perhaps it is time to make an official statement. In the third episode, robot Barton will become the main character! The third episode is already in active development – let’s wait together!

P.S. We’re currently working on Linux version too!

Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #15

sanfran

 

Hey there, friends! Once again I’m glad to welcome you on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft travelling far, far away from planet Earth.

Today let’s focus on the game play complexity and rough play through time for an episode. The first thing we found out is that this time can be very different for different players. We try very hard to balance the game by alternating simple and more complex moments, but still the gaming experience is different for everyone and it the balance is not perfect.
I personally think it’s a good thing! If you are an experienced, attentive and “old school” fan of adventure genre, you will definitely solve everything faster. The result depends directly on your mind and playing style, and not on the previously scripted “hallway”.
We got some responds from players who solved the episode in two hours (oh, wow!) and feel that the game is too simple. At the same time, we get feedback from players (a lot more people) who get stuck at some point in the game and ask for a hint. I see that the total playing time for them is close to 10 hours. That’s also cool! So the average estimated time for an episode walkthrough is about three to four hours.
I myself have a soft spot for more complex, hardcore adventure games. I like to “get stuck” between three screens, when it feels like “Bah! There’s nothing else I can do!” But then you suddenly discover the solution and it feels great. But nowadays methods like pixel hunting for hidden objects or dumb going through all the options are considered poor design and even unacceptable. Nevertheless, I think it is wrong when the game consists of straightforward or too logical solutions. The entire game play turns into the search and application of obvious objects, whereas the whole point is to think outside the box and find non-standard and fun solutions.
Anyway, each decision should be explainable, and the player should not be engaged in pixel-hunting. That’s a thin line, and I still try to leave a couple of places in each episode where the player could potentially “get stuck”. Considering that an experienced adventure gamer can easily figure things out, and less experienced player will use a hint, I think this is OK.
In the third and later episodes we will have a more dynamic plot development. The events will start to pick up the pace, but we will still try to keep the “three hours per episode” minimum, thus summarizing the total play time of the game to 15 hours of pure gameplay.
By the way, we have successfully released the second episode – and we can already boast 6-7 hours of gameplay, although the main things are still yet to come!

Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #14

cargobay

Hey there, friends! Welcome back on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft travelling far, far way from planet Earth.
Today I am going to talk about the mini games and additional puzzles in our game. I feel a very special way about mini games. I don’t really like games that are just collections of mini games. Especially when most of these games are just variations of popular game play mechanics. In my opinion this moves them to the category of mediocre games for casual audience. Naturally, there are also good exceptions, but still our game is anything but a collection of mini games.
On the other hand, there is a long-standing tradition of putting small mini games into adventure games as intermediate locations, which I personally find very gracious. Spoiler: we also use this method!
What I find a good option for a quest mini game.
Firstly, it should not be over complicated. The player walks around and solves all kinds of puzzles by combining items throughout the entire game. So we shouldn’t force him to sit around on one screen for half an hour painfully solving a single mini game. Especially since the player will most likely find a solution in Internet eventually. Mini game inside a adventure game should be a kind of rest, a possibility to get away from the usual game play and think “outside the box” for a while.
And secondly, (very important!) the mini game should not come down to mere combinatorics. This happens so often to puzzles. After all, the easiest (and the worst!) way to design a puzzle is to take a popular mechanic – some kind of Sokoban or some shifting gears – pump up the difficulty, and there you go: another boring mini game is ready. Enjoy the next few hours of going through all the options in search of the solution.
I myself enjoy puzzles where you have to guess the solution once, whereas the puzzle itself does not appear very difficult (or it can look that way, but won’t seem complex once you have guessed the solution). So basically it takes a single clever guess about the puzzle principles to solve it
So far we have met these simple rules. In the pilot and the first episodes we have two or three mini games that make the player look at the task at hand from a new perspective or let them rest a while. We are planning to maintain this ratio in the following episodes.
And speaking of next chapters: you just have to update the game and the Ep.2 button will appear in the menu!

Odysseus Kosmos – Developer Diaries #13

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Hey there, friends! Welcome back on board of “San Francisco”, a huge spacecraft travelling far, far way from planet Earth.
Today I am going to talk about the testing of our game, and what we consider “good quality” for the project.
I already explained how the game works from the inside. Here is a quick reminder–the quest logic and action sequences are not implemented directly in the code. Instead, we’ve implements our own engine, which reads a simplified text file with a set of actions. That way I can be sure that dozens and hundreds of logical interactions will not overload the game and it will remain stable even after hundreds of locations.
Nevertheless, we all understand that bugs will be bugs and there is no way you can release a game without testing. So the project has passed the most thorough tests. Of course, the most credit goes to our publisher, HeroCraft, or rather to their QA department. I am an avid quest fan myself with a lot of experience. So I perfectly understand how frustrating are bugs in this particular genre. When you have tried all the options and already reached out to solution and , finally understand that there is a bug in the game that makes it unsolvable, and it is now impossible finish it – what could be worse?! Maybe you are lucky to find an old saved game, but what if there is no saves? What if you saved in a desperate situation? The Horror! A dozen crashes would be better than that!
So, I assure you, we take the game testing extremely serious. When the project was submitted to the tests, QA specialists were given a strict order to search for logical errors with the utmost attention. I even compiled a special list of priorities:
1) Bugs of the highest category: by performing certain actions, including strange ones (by clicking everything, saving and loading, quickly pressing anywhere on the screen), you can “break” the game at any time in any location, which makes its walkthrough impossible;
2) Bugs of the first category: by doing any actions to find the opportunity to break the game at some critical moment and make the walkthrough impossible. Or using all the usual actions find an opportunity to freeze the game or crash it;
3) Bugs of the second category: everything else.
The guys tried their best to flicker, click and press everything in the game! And if something was found, we immediately corrected it. So I can say that the HeroCraft QA engineers did their best. Up until this point not once have we heard about any critical bugs that would not let you finish. Let’s hope that will be the case in the future.
That is all for today, folks. Next time let’s try to talk about mini-games.
Thank you all and have fun, everyone!