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.
If you're curious regarding what this feature was, the idea I had was to implement testimonial evidence in addition to physical evidence. I had always found it a bit hokey how important testimony always just got added to the physical evidence list in Ace Attorney, and I wanted to improve upon that. The picture I had in my head was that we could store the full text of testimonies that characters give for future reference, such that each line in each testimony could be used in the same way as physical evidence. My vision for this was that it could add another layer to puzzles, such that players would have to parse the content of testimony that characters give in order to pick out information that either is pertinent to a piece of evidence or which contradicts another character's statement in an interrogation.
Once I began implementing it, however, the problems with this feature started making themselves evident. The first was one of organization - the only way I could see to realistically organize things in a fashion that was easily parsed by the player was to sort testimony first by character, then by topic, and then finally present the text of the testimony that could be paged through and presented or combined with other evidence. This proved to be very cumbersome, considering that it was a three-step process just to get at a single piece of evidence. Another way to organize it would be just to have all of the testimony in one big list, but this would make finding a given piece of testimony difficult once a sizable number of testimonies have been received. So, right away, this made the feature problematic from a practical standpoint.
From a conceptual standpoint, however, the feature also had issues. As I went through some of the testimony in the cases we have thus far that would be used, I realized that the testimony really was not as complicated as I had expected it to be - in both Ace Attorney and in My Little Investigations, whenever a character starts discussing something, there's usually only one thing they're talking about, and there's usually one key piece of information that they discuss, too. Anything more than that and you start giving away too much information too quickly. As such, there really turned out not to be as much to parse as I had expected in the testimony, anyway - the key piece of information in each piece was always pretty obvious, making the saving of the entire testimony pretty unnecessary.
Combining these two made me ultimately decide that this feature really did not have the merit that I thought it did at its initial conception. As such, I've gone ahead and canceled it. If there's any key piece of testimony that needs to be available for reference, it's an easy task to just add it to the standard evidence list, as was done in Ace Attorney. I really have become convinced that this is sufficient, and that to do anything else would be to just overcomplicate matters and make things worse for players.
They always say that the best art is when nothing can be removed without hurting the final product, and I definitely think that applies to game design, as well. C'est la vie. On to the final gameplay element! (Are you excited? I've never been so excited - well, except for that time when I was like gasp, but I mean really, what could top that?)