Saturday, July 23, 2011

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.)

There've been a lot of MLP:FiM games posted lately to Equestria Daily.  Is this a "me too" project?

Nope!  I actually started work on this before any of the great games recently posted to Equestria Daily went up.  It's just a complete coincidence that I'm ready to unveil this project at the same time as others.  It really is creepily true what Seth says, that MLP content seems to come in waves.

Why My Little Investigations?

A number of reasons lead me to the decision that this would be a good idea for a game, despite it probably seeming at face value an odd choice.  First, it was something that, to my knowledge, hasn't been done before as a fan game, so in that sense I liked the thought of contributing something new to the MLP community.

Beyond that practical concern, though, another reason that I really liked it is the way in which its primary form of gameplay is through meaningful and involved conversations with other characters.  One of the things I've always wanted to do - and I hope members of the MLP community share this dream - is to be able to really be a part of and experience the world of Equestria.  I think that a game in this format can potentially go a long way to achieving that goal, since you can really become involved in other characters' lives through a game like this.

What is My Little Investigations built on?  How is it structured?

My Little Investigations uses a completely custom-built game engine built in XNA.  It's far from done at the moment - updates posted to this blog for the next while will center around the game engine features I'm implementing, rather than around story content - but when it's done it'll feature, among other things, a robust conversation engine that enables conversations to be easily and intuitively defined in a sequential fashion that closely matches the in-game experience of going through them.

As in the Ace Attorney series, conversations, which form one of the fundamental backbones of gameplay and character interaction in the game, will take one of two forms: either casual dialog with another character, through which information or evidence may be obtained; or interrogations in which another character's words must be parsed, the character must be pressed for more information, and evidence must be presented to catch the character in a lie, if indeed they're telling one.  Conversations may also involve a third setting, that being confrontations, in which, once you have enough information implicating a character in the crime, you then have to nail them with it.  However, I haven't yet decided whether or not that has enough potential differentiation from interrogations to make it an official other conversation style.

Aside from conversations, I also plan to make it so that different scenes of interest can be investigated for clues or leads, similar to the Ace Attorney series (a bit of a recurring phrase, huh? :P)

Another big goal that I have is to separate the actual case data from the executable file itself, such that once you open the game, you can then open a file and load a case from that.  This will make the game highly modular such that the executable doesn't need to be modified in order to create future games, which will make releasing new cases much simpler than it would be otherwise.

OMG this looks awesome!  Can I help out with it?

Absolutely!!  The visuals in this game right now are just extracted from frames of MLP:FiM and the audio in the game is taken from the Ace Attorney series, which obviously limits the potential scope of cases to things that can fit what I can find within those two sources.  And, unfortunately, I am not a clever pony when it comes to artistic matters.  As such, I will definitely hope to enlist the help of awesome people who are much better than I am at visual art, composition, or sound design, in order to make the cases really shine and not be constrained by the above.

That said, however, right now the most pressing work item ahead for me is to complete the game engine, since without that, nothing can exist.  Only once that's done can work begin in earnest on actual story content.  As such, if I enlist the help of people now, there probably will be a limited amount of work for them to do in the near future, and I don't want to leave them hanging, not sure of when they'll need to allot time to start seriously working on this game.

That said, however, if you're reading this and you really really want to help out, and if you're aware of and are fine with the above, I certainly won't forbid you from sending me examples of your work (mylittleinvestigations at gmail dot com) if you want to be considered.


I think that should about cover it for now.  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or if you just want to tell me that this sounds terrible and should never see the light of day (hopefully not that one though :P), by all means feel free to leave a comment to that end.

Thanks for reading!


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