Originally, we had a conversation system that would progress the story and allow exploration. But the conversation system on its own is limited, and should be used just for conversations rather than being the primary form of exploring the world.
At the end of the day, this is a video game and not entirely a story, but a balance needs to be struck between gameplay elements and conversations designed to send a message. On the one hand, placing too much effort into the map system may be overwhelming.
We shall see as time goes on. For now, we have made some good progress:
Here, we have our map editor. We have three different tools available to us typical of a map editor: we have a pen, fill and selection modes. Pen draws tiles one by one depending on where our mouse is on the tile map; Fill does what you expect – it fills a rectangle of tiles from one point to another; and selection simply selects.
I know, it sounds mellow dramatic, but this is part of a growing concept and one that should continue.
At the top we have a drop down where all our maps we ever create is shown. We can type in the name of a map and it will suggest the map to us, and selecting them will load the map, options and other data.
On the left we have some basic options we can modify.
We have two types of maps: Interior and Exterior. Exterior supplies us with more tile options than one, like so:
Of course, as you can see, changing the type also changes any existing tiles. Bear in mind that this is not mean to be a fully fledged tile map editor. This is a visual reference not reflective of the actual tile map in practice. I will design some basic graphics, but I'm not going to make the game like a full role-playing game. It's a game focused on interactive story and not on exploration, even if the exploration elements are there.
We also have a Scope option. This option does not change anything in the editor, but it will have an effect in the video game. There are three different Scopes:
- World - This indicates the map is a top level map. There would only be one of these in the game. I suspect as the editor progresses, I will add some additional options for World-specific tiles, but for now it is assumed to be exterior.
- Place of Interest - This indicates a place of interest. Remember our article on Places? Basically, when we enter a map that indicates a place of interest, we will look for the place that represents this map and load it's data, including any activities that take place there.
- Dungeon - A dungeon is expected to be interior, but could be exterior as well. Like in some RPG's, dungeons would no longer be accessible once you have been through them. Any left-over tasks will no longer be accessible either.
And, of course, we can modify the number of tiles on the map. Cropping the level means we will find all the tiles that exist and crop it, and all fully empty columns and rows removed.
Sections are part of the map editor as a means to navigate maps. In theory, each section should connect to each other in some way. Whether this should be automated or via a point system I have yet to consider. In one iteration of the video game, maps were designed by hand in Paint.NET, and then a point system was implemented with the ability to navigate between points with events taking place at each point.
This soon proved time-consuming and became the primary reason why I eventually abandoned the idea and progressed with a second iteration of the game. A point system could be rediscovered here, as this editor provides for much of the manual work to be removed, such as figuring out the exact X and Y location each point should be.
There is a dilemma in which the original idea, if I had designed an editor like this back then, would have more than likely came to greater fruition and more progress would have been made on the original idea. Come to think of it, it seems like a more appropriate way of navigating a world with basic graphics.
Tiles vs Hand-Drawn
This is why writing these articles are essential. Although these articles lay out the devlog for this video game, there is always some idea in the back of the mind that doesn't get through to the conscious level without theorising and writing things down.
Now we have to ask the question: do we proceed with a tile-based approach or hand-draw maps and use this editor instead to draw points on the map and implement events for these points?
With a tile-based system, there is a certain expectation from video game players that the graphics should be semi-decent and should involve exploring with characters using up, down, left and right arrow keys. This is typical of tile-based maps and that is not something I am willing to put the effort into. This isn't to say I would not do it if I had the time, but designing and drawing 2D graphics is not my forte.
On the other hand, a hand-drawn system where most of the work is tied to drawing simple graphics in something like Paint.NET and using these maps as is may seem like more work, but implementing this in the editor is simpler and the approach could be simplified.
In the long run, a hand-drawn system seems like the way to go. Returning back to the original idea is actually more feasible than a tile-based system and I suspect it removes certain expectations. This is an interactive story after all and not a fully-fledged role-playing game.
Now this dilemma has been reached, it seems only realistic to start redesigning the editor.
Remember, this is how programming works sometimes. You can think something is a good idea, and then realise later that it may not work after all.
In the next article, I will discuss the changes made to this editor to fulfil the hand-drawn approach and focus on that instead.