Saturday, December 3, 2011

New home, and we're recruting!

Hello, everypony!

Just wanted to make a post to let you all know that My Little Investigations now has a website!  You can find it here:

The website is named after the name we've given our development group, which is "Equestrian Dreamers".

I've ported over all the posts from this blog to the one on that site, so that pretty much makes this blog obsolete.  As such, this blog will no longer be updated after this post - all the types of posts that used to be made here will now be made over there.

In addition to that, we're now also recruiting for My Little Investigations!  You can find the recruitment section of our website here:

If anything there strikes your fancy, we heartily encourage you to apply!

Thanks to everypony for their support thus far, and we hope to see you soon at the new site!

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Little Investigations - Engine Demo - Confrontations

Bada bing, bada boom, there's a video in the room!

...Or so Zecora might say, if she were here, and in a spunky mood.

Here you go:

This is the last engine demo video, so just having this up marks quite a milestone!  We'll have more information later regarding the next step for My Little Investigations, but for now, enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

And then there were two

So, a bit of an update for the folks following this project.  In a previous post, I mentioned that there were three gameplay elements still to be implemented that were unique to My Little Investigations.  The second of those three has been in progress, but we now see why I wanted to managed expectations: after wrangling both with the logistics and with the core motivation for this gameplay feature, and after having discussed the matter with ZeusAssassin, I've decided that the best course of action is just to can it.  The reason for this is just that it was difficult to see how it could be structured in an organized yet efficient manner, and that I fundamentally felt that it wasn't going to materially improve the gameplay experience for the player.

I'm a bit disappointed, since at its initial inception this feature seemed like an improvement, but the more I implemented it, the more I got the sense for why Ace Attorney never bothered with it.  Don't worry, though - I can assure you that the project definitely is better off and more streamlined without it, and that the remaining element still to be implemented is most certainly rock-solid in my mind and will definitely make the final cut.  So we'll still have both that and the partner system to give this game its own personal flair.

More details after the break for those interested.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Little Investigations - Engine Demo - Partners

As the Joker might say, "And here... we... go."

The next engine demo is up, this time demonstrating - drumroll please - partners!  This is something that people have been asking about for quite some time, so I'm happy to finally be able to talk about it.  Hopefully people like it.  It would suck if people didn't. :P

Anyway, without further ado, I'll let the video do the rest of the talking:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Still in progress


I haven't been posting here for a while.  This was for a variety of reasons, and I first want to assure people that one of those reasons is most assuredly not that I'm getting bored or tired of this project.  I was away for a weekend, then I had company over for a week, and I obviously wouldn't have been a very good host to work on a project while they were here, and then I had some long days at work - I'm a software engineer, so naturally a long day of programming at work will sometimes make me not want to do more programming when I come home.  And then I had more company over last weekend too.

That said, all of that has now passed, and the project is now well underway again.  Which brings me to another reason why I haven't made any posts yet like usual: the territory we're now getting into for this game.  The gameplay aspects of this game that are borrowed from Ace Attorney Investigations (or other sources) are now all implemented.  Boom.  Done.  But that doesn't mean that the gameplay itself is completely implemented, on account of the fact that we also have some brand new gameplay elements specifically designed for this game (three, to be exact) that ZeusAssassin and I have been cooking up that have still yet to be implemented.

Why is this a reason why no posts have been made?  Well, the reason there is basically just expectation control - since the designs of these gameplay features are still potentially in flux, I don't want to post screenshots or something similar and then find out that I'll need to change them.  Promising something that you don't deliver is way worse than not promising something.  So I've been holding these closer to the chest than previous gameplay features I've been implementing.

That said, however, one of those three gameplay features is well underway now, and hopefully should be ready in a few days' time.  Watch this space!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Engine demo - Locations


This video took way longer than I had expected it would take, but it's finally ready to be shown.  This time, we're looking at locations, and all the things associated with them.  A full explanation may be found in the video, so I'll just post it:

For those curious, a full explanation of the items found in this video appears after the break.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Behind the Scenes - Structure and Cutscenes

Huh boy.  Location implementation is taking much longer than I was expecting it to - every time I implement something I realize I need to implement something else too before I'll be satisfied enough to record another demo video.  Already I've got locations themselves implemented along with transitions between them, initiation of conversations with characters in locations, cutscenes, and environment examination, but I've still got more to do.  On the plus side, this is going to be a pretty huge update when it finally goes live.  Hopefully you folks can wait a little while longer.

While we wait, though, since the last blog entry was pretty well-received, I thought I'd write another one, this time dealing with game structure and cutscenes.  ...But first, more screenshots!  Just for fun.

Much more after the break!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Behind the Scenes - Storage/Loading

There are quite a few things in the underlying infrastructure of video games that are caught in a bit of an unfortunate predicament: the only time someone actually even notices them is when they were designed poorly. The field of content storage and loading in video games is definitely one of those areas. So, while you wait for me to finish implementing locations in the game (it's coming along, I promise), I thought I'd talk a little bit about it for your interest's sake.

Discussion after the break, for those who are interested.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Progress - Locations

One of the worst parts about designing a game engine is that a whoooole lot of the work you do goes into the underlying infrastructure, which tends to be rather boilerplate work that facilitates content when it's done, but does not actually produce much of anything you can actually show others when it's still in progress as proof that you're actually getting work done.  Such is the case right about now - I've been working on enabling location navigation within the game engine now, which is basically taking us up one more level: locations contain characters, with whom you can get into encounters, as was demonstrated in the last video.

Unfortunately, I've still got a ways to go as far as work goes on this part of the game engine, but since I'm a tease, here are some early screenshots to tide you over and reassure you that I am in fact working on this game:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Font poll - The results!

Thanks to everyone who responded.  The poll regarding the MLI dialog font had a much bigger turnout than I expected.  You guys are awesome!

To get the following results, I took every person's post and added 1 to the tally of each font they spoke positively towards, and then subtracted 1 from the tally of each font they spoke negatively towards.  I didn't explicitly say you could list more than one font, but most people did, so I figured this would be the most fair way to make sure that everyone's full opinions are fully accounted for.

That said, as far as the results go... oh dear.  I feel a bit like Twilight in The Ticket Master right about now. Full results after the break.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reader input wanted - Dialog font

I haven't been working on this that much lately - was taking a break for the second half of last week, and then over last weekend I was down in Northwest Bronyfest having a good time meeting some of you awesome folk!  However, now I'm back, and about ready to get back in business.  First off, however, I want to talk about, and get input from you on, a topic that keeps coming up in viewer feedback: namely, the font choice for the dialog in the game.

Currently, it looks like this:

(If it's not clear, I'm talking about the font for "Apple Bloom, your...")

Now, let me be clear: I still like this font.  I chose it rather than a font more closely approximating the Ace Attorney font because I felt that Friendship is Magic is much softer around the edges than Ace Attorney was - both in terms of dialog and in terms of content - and I felt that I should pick a font for the dialog that reflected that.  And this comic book-style font seemed to fit nicely.

However... if there's one single thing that the entire MLI fan base seems to be united against, at least as far as I can tell... it's this font.  Every time I check on people talking about MLI, the one thing that always seems to come up as the thing they don't like is that font.  I've already accepted from the outset that I can't please everyone... but something that pleases no one is, well, a little different.  So, I'm officially giving you the chance to have your voice heard on this topic, since I'm quite seriously pondering changing that font to a different one.  (Alternately, if you do like the font and would like to keep it the way it is, please tell me - I've literally had no one say so, so if you're in that boat, please let that be known!)

More info after the break!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Engine demo - Character encounters

Phew, this took a bit longer than I expected it to - I kept finding more and more things I wanted to implement for the test content seen in this video -  but the next gameplay video is finally ready for display.  This time, we're taking a look at character encounters.  A full explanation can be found in the video (now with narration!), so I'll just stop talking and post the video:

More details about just what is seen in this video appear after the break.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Character encounters coming soon

Just checking in to say that progress is coming along just fine on character encounters.  These will take us one level above interrogations - character encounters account for a full session with another character at a given location, which can include multiple questions and interrogations.

I'm still working on them, but a gameplay video should be out in the near future.  Here are some screenshots to tide you over until then!  (Click for full size.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All hard-coded values removed

Dear Princess Celestia,

Today I learned an important lesson on the value of good coding design.  If you're writing a piece of software that you intend to be modular, it's always a good idea to plan out the design to actually function this way before you start writing any code.  Otherwise, a sudden realization of a fundamental design flaw might require you to rewrite the whole content storage system in your application.  And that wouldn't be so good.

Your faithful student,


OK, so I know that I said in my last blog entry that the next thing I'd be working on was character encounters, but as you probably gleaned from the above, I suddenly realized shortly after writing that that there was a fundamental design flaw in the way in which content was stored in my application that made it impossible to load content (images, audio, etc.) from an external source.  This was a Very Bad Thing, because that obviously meant that the entire idea I had behind cases being modular and separate from the executable was not going to work.  So unfortunately I had to spent the last two days effectively tearing down and rewriting the content storage system in the game to properly accommodate the loading of external content.

However, I'm pleased to report that that speed bump is now behind us, and the game is now looking better than ever.  I've now broken off the case source compiler from the executable itself, and have gotten it to successfully compile all the case data plus all required images into a single binary file that can then be loaded into the executable.  In other words, I've already got a very, very rudimentary version of a case editor up and running.  <fluttershy>yay!</fluttershy>

As such, now I can finally begin work on character encounters.  Sorry to anyone who was expecting that work sooner.  I promise that when that's done, I'll finally actually have some more gameplay footage for you to look at, rather than just this technical mumbo jumbo. :)

More details for those interested after the break.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Interrogation parser is done

I unfortunately don't have much to actually show for this bit of work that I just completed, but it's important all the same.  Essentially, as I alluded to in my last post, I've been building a rudimentary parser for a conversation declaration language that I've put together, which allows me to quickly define conversations in an intuitive and sequential fashion.  That parser is now complete - I've successfully gotten a text file to compile into a conversation object that can then be loaded into the game engine and interacted with.  As work progresses and I implement other aspects of the game engine, this parser will need to be upgraded to also compile text files into objects for those parts as well, but this is a good start.

If you're currently wondering why you would care about this - isn't this just an internal implementation detail? - enabling the ability to define the case data in this fashion separates the game data from the game engine, which carries with it a number of tangible benefits:
  1. It enables cases to be defined in a modular fashion - in other words, cases aren't built directly into the executable file. This makes it so that players will be able to install the executable file once, and then just download and open separate case files to play future cases, instead of requiring an update to the executable file itself.
  2. It enables the creation of a case editor separate from the game itself, which can be used to create, edit, and save these case source files, which can then be compiled and loaded into the game itself.
  3. It enables cases to be defined in a platform-agnostic fashion - the game I'm implementing is built in XNA, meaning that it won't run within the context of an operating system other than Windows, but because the cases are defined in this fashion, porting the game to another operating system would only require the re-implementation of the game engine and the case source parser, not a re-implementation of the actual cases themselves.
For those who are really interested, the definition of the conversation seen in the video in the last post, along with an explanation of the different actions defined within it, appear after the break.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Engine demo - Interrogations

The very first part of the game that I decided to start working on, since I had a feeling it would be the most involved, was the interrogations - the portions of the game where you listen to a character talk about a subject, press them for more details or to get a reaction from them, and then present them with evidence to expose a lie if they're making one.  That portion of the game engine is more or less complete at this point, and I've put up a video demonstrating the gameplay for this part of the game after the break.

More info after the break.

Welcome to the diary!

Hello, all!

If you're reading this, you're probably here to check out the My Little Investigations project.  So, let me begin first by describing the project.

What is My Little Investigations?

My Little Investigations (working title) is a video game that I got the inspiration for and decided to start work on a little while ago.  It's a MLP:FiM video game with gameplay quite similar to that appearing in the game Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, although it the gameplay won't be completely copied feature-for-feature.  In short, the game will be split up into separate cases, each of which begins with a crime being committed, and each of which requires Twilight Sparkle to investigate, to talk to and confront various characters from the MLP:FiM universe, and to ultimately solve the puzzle and unravel the case.

If that sounds like a very vague description, don't worry - I plan to periodically post gameplay videos as I work on the game, which should hopefully serve to fill in viewers regarding the specific gameplay mechanics underlying the game.  So all should become clear in due time.

(More questions after the break.)