Dev Blog 3: Quest Generation and Some Combat UI Upgrades

In the last dev blog I had a lot of systems updates to talk about, but nothing to show off in terms of visuals, which can be kind of boring.  In February I did a lot more work that I can share in screenshots, particularly new UI elements.  It's all still programmer art that will eventually get replaced with real art, but it's still useful from the standpoint of hooking everything up and writing code for the underlying systems.  I also finally got around to adding camera controls, so you can change the zoom level and pan the camera around. 

I checked a lot of little tasks off my to-do list, but there are two main additions that I've made to the game that are worth discussing in some more detail here.  Since I've mostly been talking about the combat engine so far, I'll start by showing off some work I've been doing on the combat UI, and then I'll jump into the second major system (and the first one that takes place outside combat) that I've been working on.


In February I spent a good deal of time iterating on the user interface in the combat section.  I largely re-worked the way the info panel at the bottom of the screen works.  It's got a lot less information than it originally did, as I start moving many of the details into tooltips and other more contextual actions.  Here's what the interface currently looks like when you're selecting an enemy to target with an ability:

Combat UI information largely moved to tooltips and pop-ups.

Combat UI information largely moved to tooltips and pop-ups.

There are a few things that have changed since the last screenshot I posted.  There's now a health bar to show the amount of health that remains for the currently selected player.  Ability descriptions have been shortened, and now you just see the ability's name, and in brackets the number of action points necessary to use it.  More detailed info is now available in the pop-up that you see near the bottom-middle of the screen, which is keeping in line with how other recent tactical RPGs (like XCom) work.

Eventually I think the info panel at the bottom will shrink considerably, since the amount of information that needs to be shown is much smaller than it once was. 


The biggest thing I began working on in February is the system that generates and gives out quests.  I haven't talked about quests in any detail yet, but I think now would be a good time to give a general overview of the system.

  • You play as a rag-tag group of space-faring bounty hunters (think Cowboy Bebop), and the quests are all bounties that you can chase after.
  • Bounties will be procedurally generated. 
  • Some of the elements that are procedurally generated will be visible to the player, like what crime the bounty is accused of committing, who the crime was committed against, and what the enemy's special abilities are.
  • There will also be things generated under the hood that aren't immediately visible to the player, like what motivated the alleged criminal.  These things will play into other systems that I haven't revealed yet in ways that should help deepen the story.
  • The player will be able to choose from a number of available bounties at any given time. At the moment that number is three.
  • The player learns about new bounties and selects which ones to pursue through a smartphone app called Virtue.  Think of it like a "sharing economy" for crime fighting.  Bounty hunters are independent contractors, not employees.  If they were employees they'd need health insurance, and it's expensive to insure space-faring crime fighters.

The app is going to have two screens, one of which shows a brief summary of available quests, and one of which will show a more detailed breakdown of what the bounty will entail.  I'm still working on the second screen, but you can see a work-in-progress of the summary screen below.

A first pass at a quest selection screen.

A first pass at a quest selection screen.

This is just a really basic example of how it will work.  It is currently generating a set of three quests every time you play, but it's all just placeholder info right now.  Eventually the crimes will be much more interesting and varied, there will be actual profile photos, and so forth.

Hopefully by this time next month the whole bounty app will work and be able to launch the player into an actual quest, rather than the single testing combat scenario I've been working with so far.